Life expectancy in the U.S. has been steadily rising for decades, while the birth rate has recently fallen to record lows. Not only is the median age increasing, the percentage of the population that is 85 years and older is also growing. There are roughly six million Americans in this age group, about 1.9% of the U.S. population.
Some areas of the country have larger shares of older people than others, and there is wide variation even within states. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau to identify the county in every state where the largest share of residents are at least 85 years old.
While retirement communities in states like Florida and Arizona might seem likely to be the areas with the largest shares of residents 85 and older, America’s oldest counties are actually clustered in sparsely populated rural areas of the Midwest. In fact, 73 of America’s 100 oldest counties are within just six Midwestern states.
Generally, the oldest counties tend to be in the more sparsely populated rural areas of a state. In most of these regions, it is likely that the young residents have left for urban areas while the older residents have stayed in place. The oldest county in the nation is in Nebraska, where the share of 85 and older residents is almost five times higher than the nationwide level.