Census Finds Rapid Growth in Senior Population

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Good news for seniors: It’s getting easier to get a date.

That’s one takeaway from a U.S. Census Bureau number crunch on older Americans. The senior population not only is larger than ever before, at 40.3 million, it also includes a larger proportion of men, given their increasing life expectancy. In 1990 there were only 82.7 men for every 100 women aged 65-plus. As of 2010, the bureau reported today, that was up to 90.5 men per 100 women, courtesy of the narrowing differential in mortality rates.

From 2000 to 2010, the bureau reported, the number of older men rose by 3 million, to 17.4 million, while the number of older women increased by 2.3 million, to 22.9 million.

The senior population overall grew by 15.1 percent compared with the 2000 Census, a faster growth rate than that of the U.S. population as a whole, at 9.7 percent. Seniors now account for 13 percent of the total population, their largest share in history, and up from just 4.1 percent in 1900.

Moreover, the bureau advised, there’s a bigger change coming: The leading edge of the baby boom turns 65 this year, portending a major growth in the senior population in years ahead. Given the size of the boomer generation, it said, “Future growth of the older population is both highly probable and unprecedented in the United States.”

That population growth is likely to have a variety of impacts, including geographic distribution, given the preference of older adults for warmer climes. Florida continues to have the greatest percentage of population that is senior, 17.3 percent, and 14.9 million of the nation’s older adults live in the South, almost 6 million more than in the next closest region (the Midwest, with 9 million). That said, the region with the fastest growth in its 65-plus population from 2000 to 2010 was the West, up by 23.5 percent.

There were 53,364 centenarians in 2010, up 5.8 percent from 2000.