The Grayest U.S. Counties — And a Few That Are Getting Younger

Can you guess the county where more than half of the population is older than the age of 65?

America is aging, but some places are aging faster than others.

A Pew research study of data from the U.S. Census Bureau found 97 percent of counties saw an increase in the percentage of the population age 65 and older between 2010 and 2014. On average, Pew found senior citizens as a percentage of the population grew by 12.4 percent over that time.

Douglas County, Colorado, had the biggest jump in residents older than 65 with a 57.3 percent increase. Routt and Elbert counties, both in Colorado, also had growth rates higher than 50 percent, meaning the Centennial State had all of the top three.

But growth rate doesn’t mean it had the most people older than 65. That honor would belong to Sumter County, Florida, where 52.9 percent are older than 65. Sumter is the only county in the United States where more than half the population is older than 65. A distant second place belongs to Charlotte County, Florida, where 37.7 percent were older than 65.

Among states, Florida has the highest percentage of 65-and-older people in the nation, with 19.1 percent. On a statewide basis, Alaska has the smallest percentage of people 65 and older, with only 9.4 percent.

There are a handful of counties — 3 percent of them — getting younger, Pew found. The county with the biggest drop was Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, which saw a 9.5 percent decrease in people 65 and older.

The shift in population is not unique to the United States. Worldwide, longer life spans and lower birthrates mean that older people are becoming a larger portion of total population. “The Next America,” a Pew report that explores the demographic shift in depth reflects on its implications:

It’s uncharted territory, not just for us, but for all of humanity. And while it’s certainly good news over the long haul for the sustainability of the earth’s resources, it will create political and economic stress in the shorter term, as smaller cohorts of working age adults will be hard-pressed to finance the retirements of larger cohorts of older ones.

What’s your take on the aging population? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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