At every point in their aging process, the baby boom generation has made an overwhelming impact on the nation through its sheer size, and now its movement into early retirement ages represents another milestone. During the decade of the 2000s, the baby boomers began turning 65, swelling the ranks of the traditional senior population aged 65 and older, and as usual the boomers are leaving a distinctive mark on the American landscape. In this case, they are leading a wave of senior population growth that is spreading well beyond the traditional retirement magnet states of Florida and Arizona.
According to a new 2010 census report from public policy researchers at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., 32 metropolitan areas increased their senior populations by more than 25 percent during the decade of the 2000s. Most were in the South and West, but only five metro areas were in Florida or Arizona. States ranging from South Carolina to Utah—and from Georgia to Colorado—each had more than one metro area with at least 25 percent growth in seniors.
But the geographic growth of seniors from 2000 to 2010 was merely the “lull before the storm,” according to Brookings, because the main bulge of the boomer generation turns 65 this decade. These so-called preseniors increased the overall 55-to-64 population by a whopping 50 percent last decade. They, too, are headed south and west, but, like the older boomers, these preseniors moved seemingly en masse to some nontraditional retirement communities, such as college towns in Texas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
In fact, six metro areas were among the top ten largest gainers, on a percentage basis, in both the 65-plus and presenior age groups. Those metros were as follows: Austin, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Provo, Utah, and Raleigh, North Carolina. They are likely the emerging hot spots for senior housing development, and the broader implication for ULI members is that development opportunities for seniors’ housing and walkable communities exist in a wider geography of metro areas for the boomers than for previous generations.
Below are lists of top ten metropolitan areas with the fastest-growing senior (aged 65-plus) and presenior (aged 55 to 64) populations from 2000 to 2010:
Percentage of Population Over 65 Years Old in 2010
2000–2010 Percentage Increase in People Aged 65 and Older
Las Vegas, NV
Colorado Springs, CO
2000–2010 Percentage Increase in People Aged 55 to 64
Colorado Springs, CO
Riverside/San Bernardino, CA
Source: Brookings Institution.