The average age of U.S. buyers of long term care insurance may have dropped below 60 for the first time.

The average age of Americans buying individual LTC insurance policies now appears to be 58, according to the American Association of Long Term Care Insurance, Westlake Village, Calif.

Researchers at the AALTCI came up with the statistics by conducting a survey of LTC insurers.

The average age of LTC insurance buyers has fallen from 67 in 2000, AALTCI officials say.

A total of about 8 million U.S. residents have LTC insurance coverage through group, individual or “multi-life” LTC insurance policies or through annuity or life insurance contracts that offer LTC insurance benefits.

All private LTC insurance policies combined paid about $3.3 billion in benefits in 2006, the AALTCI reports.