IN THE CITY
Elizabeth W. Markson
Beth B. Hess
The particular vulnerabilities of women and the vicissitudes of aging 1 combine to isolate the older women. This situation, which urban settings often exacerbate, is our concern now. Because so many older women live in cities, often in great difficulty, our subject is hardly a trivial one. Despite this, and despite ruminations about the "graying of America," old women have received surprisingly little scholarly attention.
Until relatively recently, large numbers of old women in the city or elsewhere were scarce. In 1900 the average life expectancy at birth for white women was 48.7, for nonwhite women 33.5. However, in 1976, the average life expectancy at birth was 77.3 for white, 72.6 for nonwhite females. The proportion of women reaching age 65 has also changed dramatically. By 1973, 82.2 percent of all white and 68.1 percent of all nonwhite women could expect to reach age 65. Obviously changes in these mortality patterns have had marked effects on the demographic "shape" of our population as well as that of most other industrialized nations. In 1900, the ratio of women 65+ to men 65+ was only 98 to every 100. By 1970, this pattern had reversed to 138 women 65+ for every 100 men. By the year 2000, given current age adjusted mortality rates, there will be 154 women to every 100 men 65+.
A fiction persists that the majority of the old live in nonmetropolitan areas or in retirement communities. Yet 63.6 percent of all women 65+ and 60.5 percent of all men 65+ resided in metropolitan areas in the United States in 1978. The