December 2, 2011

USA: Older People Are a Larger Portion of U.S. Population

NEW YORK, NY / The New York Times / US / December 2, 2011

By Sabrina Tavernise

WASHINGTON — Elderly people are now a greater portion of the population than at any time since the government began keeping track with those age 65 and older rising to 13 percent of the population over the past decade, the Census Bureau said.

According to the 2010 census, there were 40.3 million people age 65 and older as of April 2010, a rise of about 15 percent from 2000. In contrast, the nation as a whole grew by 9.7 percent. That is a change from the decade before, when the nation grew faster than the elderly population.

The fastest growing group was those ages 65 to 69, up by a third from 2000. That group will expand even more rapidly in the decade to come, starting in 2011, as baby boomers begin to turn 65.

“The boomers are coming,” said William Frey, chief demographer at the Brookings Institution.

The Northeast had the largest percentage of people 65 and older, at 14 percent, but the fastest growing older population was in the West, up by 23 percent over the decade. The states with the top increases were Alaska, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Arizona.

This is a new situation for the Sun Belt, Dr. Frey said, where people flocked over the past decade for work in areas that were booming. Now those people are aging in place, creating growing populations of older people, who will be fighting for scarce government resources alongside younger populations heavy with immigrants.

States with high percentages of elderly people — for example, West Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania and Iowa — have experienced decades of loss or tepid growth of their younger populations, and lack the immigration that has propped up populations elsewhere in the country.

In Pennsylvania, people 65 and older make up 15 percent of the population, compared with a younger state with many immigrants, Texas, where the share is just 10 percent. The fast-approaching legions of baby boomers will push that up even further in the coming years. Pennsylvania’s population of people now 55 to 64 increased by more than 40 percent, Dr. Frey said.

Nationwide, the only group that experienced a decline was that of 75- to 79-year-olds, down by 1.3 percent over the decade, reflecting the low number of births during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Elderly women still outnumber elderly men, but the gap is closing, the census said. The population of men ages 85 to 94 grew by nearly half, while the number of women in the same age group increased by about a fifth.

© 2011 The New York Times Company
Credit: Reports and photographs are property of owners of intellectual rights.
Seniors World Chronicle, a not-for-profit, serves to chronicle and widen their reach.