According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, retirement-age adults will outnumber Americans under age 18 by 2035 for the first time in history. The aging of the U.S. population is driven by a falling birth rate and long-term improvements in life expectancy. While these demographic shifts are novel on a national scale, in many parts of the country, they are nothing new.
The median age in the United States is 38 years and is projected to hit 43 years as early as 2060. Age demographics vary considerably by region, and in every state, there are counties where the median age already exceeds Census Bureau’s 2060 projection. 24/7 Tempo reviewed median age by county using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey to identify the oldest county in every state.
As the population ages, the United States will face new economic and public policy challenges. These challenges include increased health care, social security, and pension expenditures, with fewer workers to foot the bill. Not all states will be able to deal with those challenges well. As social and environmental factors vary by region, so too does the quality of life of elderly Americans — these are the worst states to grow old in.
There are currently about 24 retirement-age adults for every 100 working-age adults nationwide. In half of the counties on this list, the old age dependency ratio is at least double the national ratio. In Sumter County, Florida, the oldest county on this list, there are 141 residents age 65 or older for every 100 adults between the ages of 18 and 64.
These counties with a higher median age tend to have relatively small populations that are only getting smaller. Only four counties on this list have populations of over 100,000, and the vast majority of them are home to fewer people now than they were five years ago. Some regions are losing people at an unprecedented rate — these are the fastest shrinking counties in America.