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More Americans died in 1994 than in any year in the nation's history, a symptom of an aging nation with an "older boom" in its future.

At the same time, the number of births fell below 4 million for the first time in this decade, now that the daughters of the baby boom are joining their mothers in lower-fertility age groups.Both findings were included in the Census Bureau's 1995 Population Profile of the United States, released Monday.

"The number of deaths is rising not because the U.S. is becoming more unhealthy, but because the number of elderly is rising. The older boom is beginning slowly," explained Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau, a private research organization.

The Census report showed 2,294,000 deaths in 1994, the most for any year in U.S. history.

The number of people aged 85 and over has been increasing in recent years and with this group continuing to grow, the number of deaths will continue to rise each year, the Census report said.

While the number of elderly Americans has been increasing thanks to better medical care, Haub noted that this growth has been relatively small because the generation aging now was born during the Depression, the period of the country's lowest birth rate.

The real "older boom" will begin around 2010 when the first wave of the baby boom generation begins hitting retirement age, Haub noted.

The combination of fewer births and more deaths doesn't mean the population is in any danger of shrinking, however.

"We still have about 1.7 million more births than deaths, and we will for quite some time," Haub noted.