There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history. According to a new Census Bureau report, there were 40.3 million people age 65 and older on April 1, 2010, up 5.3 percent from 35 million in 2000 (and just 3.1 million in 1900).
"The population age 65 and older has increased notably over time," says Carrie Werner, a Census Bureau statistician and author of the report. "It is expected to increase more rapidly over the next decade as more baby boomers start to turn 65 in 2011."
[See 10 Cities With the Most People Over 65.]
The 65-and-older population jumped 15.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, compared with a 9.7 percent increase for the total U.S. population. People age 65 and older now make up 13 percent of the total population, compared with 12.4 percent in 2000 and 4.1 percent in 1900.
Females significantly outnumber males at older ages, but the gap is narrowing. In 2010, there were 90.5 males for every 100 females among people age 65 and older, up from 88.1 males per 100 females the same age in 2000. "Women outnumber men in the older population at every single year of age," says Werner. "Males showed more rapid growth in the older population than females over the past decade." In the 2010 Census, there were approximately twice as many women as men beginning at age 89. This point occurred about four years older than it did in 2000, and six years older than in 1990.
All regions of the country have seen growth in their 65-and-older populations since the 2000 Census. The older population is growing most rapidly in the West, where the number of senior citizens increased 23.5 percent, from 6.9 million in 2000 to 8.5 million in 2010. The Northeast is home to the largest percentage of people 65 years and older (14.1 percent), followed by the Midwest (13.5 percent), the South (13.0 percent), and the West (11.9 percent).
Florida has the greatest proportion of people who are at least 65 (17.3 percent), followed by West Virginia (16 percent), Maine (15.9 percent), Pennsylvania (15.4 percent), and Iowa (14.9 percent). The state with the smallest share of 65-and-older individuals is Alaska (7.7 percent).
Rhode Island is the only state that experienced a decrease in the number of residents age 65 and older. The older population declined 0.3 percent, from 152,402 in 2000 to 151,881 in 2010. "The fairly stagnant Rhode Island economy during periods of economic expansion elsewhere in the '80s and '90s meant fewer people at peak job earning ages arriving and more people leaving," says Andrew Foster, an economics and community health professor and director of the Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University. "However, recent arrivals of Hispanics and the attractiveness of Rhode Island as a place to live are leading to substantial growth in the 55-to-65 age range… so it is likely that Rhode island will see an increase in 65-plus by 2020." The District of Columbia's older population also decreased from 69,898 in 2000 to 68,809 in 2010, a 1.6 percent decline.
Scottsdale, Ariz. had the highest percentage of people 65 and older among places with 100,000 or more people in 2010 (20 percent), compared with the national average of 13 percent. "Scottsdale, like much of Arizona, has attracted a large number of older migrants from other parts of the country," says Victor Agadjanian, director of the Center for Population Dynamics at Arizona State University. Four Florida cities, Clearwater, Hialeah, Cape Coral, and Miami, are also among the 10 cities with the highest percentages of senior citizens. Surprise, Ariz., Honolulu, Metairie, La., Warren, Mich., and Independence, Mo., also have large proportions of retirement-age residents.