America is beginning to show its age as the baby boom generation advances toward full-fledged senior-hood. But the pace of this aging will vary widely across the national landscape due to noticeable geographic shifts in the younger population, with implications for health care, transportation, and housing, and possible impacts upon our ability to forge societal consensus.
An analysis of data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 decennial censuses reveals that:
Due to baby boomers “aging in place,” the population age 45 and over grew 18 times as fast as the population under age 45 between 2000 and 2010. All states and metropolitan areas are showing noticeable growth in their older and “advanced middle age” populations which, for the first time, comprise a majority of the nation’s voting-age population.
Although all parts of the nation are aging, there is a growing divide between areas that are experiencing gains or losses in their younger populations. In 28 of the 50 states, and 36 of the 100 largest metro areas, the population below age 45 declined from 2000 to 2010. Yet in 29 metro areas, including Las Vegas, Orlando, Houston, and Atlanta, the under-45 population grew by at least 10 percent over the decade.
Areas experiencing the fastest senior (age 65+) growth are located in the Sun Belt, while areas with the highest concentrations of seniors are located primarily in Florida, the Northeast, and the Midwest. Yet baby boom generation “pre-seniors,” now just turning 65, are growing rapidly in all areas of the country due to aging in place. College towns such as Austin, Raleigh, Provo, and Madison are among those where pre-seniors are growing fastest.
Suburbs are aging more rapidly than cities with higher growth rates for their age-45-and-above populations and larger shares of seniors. People age 45 and older represent 40 percent of suburban residents, compared to 35 percent of city residents.
Metropolitan suburbs differ sharply in the degree to which they are attracting young adults and children. The suburbs of 34 metropolitan areas, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, registered declines in their child and under-45 populations in the 2000s, leaving high concentrations of “advanced middle aged” and older residents. An even larger number of cities experienced losses in these younger populations.