Senior Citizens Now Largest Age Group in U.S.; Growing Faster Than Total Population
2010 census brief finds men gaining on women, 53,364 centenarians, 1.3 million in nursing homes, South had most elderly,
Northeast had largest percentage
Dec. 1, 2011 – Senior citizens – that includes people 65 and older – are now at the top of the heap in U.S. Census
numbers. The senior age group is now, for the first time, the largest in terms of size and percent of the population in the U.S. This age
group grew at a faster rate than the total population between 2000 and 2010, according to a 2010 Census brief released yesterday.
According to the 2010 Census, there were 40.3 million people 65 and older on April 1, 2010, increasing by 5.3 million
since the 2000 Census when this population numbered 35.0 million. The percentage of the population 65 and older also increased during the
previous decade. In 2010, the older population represented 13.0 percent of the total population, an increase from 12.4 percent in 2000.
65 and Older Population Grew Faster than Total Population
Between 2000 and 2010, the population 65 and older grew 15.1 percent, while the total U.S. population grew 9.7 percent.
The opposite happened between 1990 and 2000 when the growth of the older population was slower than the growth of the total population, with
growth rates of 12.0 percent and 13.2 percent, respectively.
Population Size and Growth Varied Among the Older Age Groups
Examining the growth of 10-year age groups within the older population shows that 85- to 94-year-olds experienced the
fastest growth between 2000 and 2010. This group grew by 29.9 percent, increasing from 3.9 million to 5.1 million.
Among five-year age groups in the older population, 65- to 69-year-olds grew the fastest. This age group grew by 30.4
percent, rising from 9.5 million to 12.4 million. The 65- to 69-year-old group is expected to grow more rapidly over the next decade as the
first baby boomers start turning 65 in 2011.
The only older population age group to decline between 2000 and 2010 was the 75- to 79-year-old age group. This group
decreased by 1.3 percent from 7.4 million to 7.3 million. The changes in this group mainly reflect the relatively low number of births during
the early 1930s as fewer numbers of people entered these ages between 2000 and 2010.
Population of Older Men Increased at a More Rapid Rate than Older Women
While women continue to outnumber men in the older ages, men have continued to close the gap over the decade by
increasing at a faster rate than women. The largest growth rate for a 10-year age group within the older population was for men 85 to 94 years
old (46.5 percent). Women in this age group also increased but to a smaller degree (22.9 percent). When five-year age groups are compared, men
90 to 94 years old had the fastest growth rate (50.3 percent) while women increased the fastest in the 65- to 69-year-old age group (28.2
The number of men per 100 women in the older ages has increased over time as differences in male and female mortality
continued to narrow and more males entered into the older population. For most single years of age above age 65, the ratio of men to women was
higher in 2010 than in 2000 and 1990.
In the 2010 Census, there were approximately twice as many women as men at age 89 (361,309 compared with 176,689,
respectively). This doubling point occurred about four years older than it did in 2000 and six years older than it did in 1990, illustrating
the narrowing gap in mortality between men and women at the older ages.
South had Largest Number of People in Older Ages, While Northeast had Largest Percentage
Comparisons across the nation's four regions in 2010 show that the South contained the greatest number of people 65 and
older at 14.9 million, followed by the Midwest at 9.0 million, and the West at 8.5 million. The Northeast had the smallest number of people 65
and older at 7.8 million but also had the highest percentage of people 65 and older at 14.1 percent. Following the Northeast was the Midwest
at 13.5 percent and the South at 13.0 percent. The West had the smallest percentage of people 65 and older at 11.9 percent.
West had the Fastest Growth in the Populations 65 and Over and 85 and Over
When compared with the 2000 Census, all regions grew in both the 65 and older and 85 and older populations. The region
with the fastest growth in the population 65 and older was the West (23.5 percent), increasing from 6.9 million in 2000 to 8.5 million in
2010. The region with the fastest growth in the population 85 and older was also the West (42.8 percent), increasing from 806,000 in 2000 to
1.2 million in 2010.
Rhode Island was the Only State Whose 65 and Older Population Decreased
Among the 50 states, Rhode Island was the only one to decrease in the number of people 65 and older, declining from
152,402 in 2000 to 151,881 in 2010. The District of Columbia's 65-and-older population also decreased from 69,898 in 2000 to 68,809 in 2010.
Compared with other states, Florida had the greatest share of the population that was 65 and older in both 2000 and 2010
(17.6 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively). West Virginia (16.0 percent), Maine (15.9 percent), Pennsylvania (15.4 percent) and Iowa (14.9
percent) followed in 2010.
The state with the lowest share of the population 65 and older was Alaska in both 2000 and 2010 (5.7 percent and 7.7
percent, respectively). Alaska is also notable as the state with the largest growth rate for the population 65 and older. The state's older
population grew from 35,699 in 2000 to 54,938 in 2010, resulting in a percent increase of 53.9 percent.
Population 85 and Older Increased in All States
Between 2000 and 2010, all states experienced increases in the number of people who were 85 and older. However, the
magnitude of growth varied among states.
Alaska had the largest percent change between 2000 and 2010 (78.9 percent), increasing from 2,634 in 2000 to 4,711 in
2010. Mississippi had the smallest growth rate (3.4 percent) and increased from 42,891 in 2000 to 44,359 in 2010. Alaska was also the state
with the lowest number and percentage of the population 85 and older when compared with other states.
In the 2010 Census, there were 53,364 centenarians (people 100 and older), an increase of 5.8 percent since 2000.
The number of people 65 and older more than doubled in 21 counties in the United States.
Approximately 1.3 million people 65 and older – or 3.1 percent of this population – lived in skilled-nursing facilities
The Census Bureau recently released
90+ in the United States: 2006-2008 (click
here to SeniorJournal report, or here for complete Census Bureau brief), a report providing an overview of this age group and a
comparative analysis of selected demographic and socioeconomic differences between the 90 and older group and their younger counterparts
within the older population. The statistics, which go down to the state level, come primarily from the American Community Survey.