How fast is 65-plus population growing in Tacoma and Seattle compared to rest of U.S.?

By Brad Chastain

It’s no great secret older adults are an increasingly large share of America’s population. The birth rate  has fallen by more than half since the early 1960s. Typical life expectancy in the U.S. has increased by about a decade over the same span. And the last members of the Baby Boomer generation, which totals more than 75 million people, will hit their 60s starting in 2024.

America’s aging has far-reaching implications for society and the economy. Older workers’ retirements will decrease the size of the labor force and potentially leave many positions unfilled. Their transition from paying into programs like Social Security and Medicare to drawing the benefits will put extra strain on government budgets. Older Americans’ needs for health and social services will shape the economy as demand in those fields increases in the years to come. Lifestyle preferences can determine where and how communities grow and provide necessities like housing and transportation.

In some respects, the shifts underway in the U.S. reflect common demographic patterns in developed economies. Across the world, upper-middle income and high-income countries tend to have the lowest fertility rates and longest life expectancies. With fewer new births and the existing population living longer, the average age of a population increases over time.

Data from other major economies confirm that the aging trends in the U.S. are no outliers. Germany and the United Kingdom have followed a similar trajectory, with the share of the 65-and-over population roughly doubling from the mid-20th century to 2023. And in Asia, the trends are even more dramatic. Japan has seen its 65-and-over population increase from less than 5 percent in the early 1950s to more than 30 percent today. The percentage of the population 65 and over in China has more than doubled since the turn of the century, to 14 percent in 2023.

While the aging pattern in the U.S. is consistent with that of other developed economies, the Baby Boomer generation is a primary reason for the rapid growth of the senior population here over the last decade. More than 75 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964, and as the members of that group have reached their later years, the population of seniors has increased.

From 2012 (the year after the first Baby Boomers turned 65) to 2022, America’s oldest generation had the fastest growth rates among men and women. The percentage of the U.S. population 65 and over increased from 13.7 percent to 17.3 percent. At the same time, those under 25 experienced a decline in their population shares.

In a study of that 10-year period, the populations of Tacoma and Seattle didn’t age quite as fast as the country as a whole. The percentage growths among 65-and-up were 3.6 nationally, 3.4 percent for Tacoma, and 2.4 percent for Seattle.

Some regions are aging more rapidly than others–in particular, the New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Vermont leads the nation with a 5.9 percent increase in its senior population between 2012 and 2022, followed closely by Maine at 5.6 percent and New Hampshire at 5.5 percent. Western states, including Wyoming (5.6 percent), Hawaii (5.4 percent), and Alaska (5.3 percent) also rank highly for their growth rates.

The most rapidly aging cities are spread throughout the country. In some cases, Sun Belt destinations are proving to be attractive retirement locations that are bringing more older adults into the population. In others, economic decline has limited the number of younger people moving in or families adding children, allowing the existing older population to grow.

Analysis of these trends was conducted by U.S. Money Reserve using data from the Census Bureau. Some highlights:

  • Among the largest cities (populations of at least 350,000), the five most rapidly aging cities (percentage increase of 65-and-older residents over a 10-year period) are led by New Orleans, where in 2022 17.3 percent of its residents were 65-plus, an increase of almost 6 percent since 2012. Next in line are Virginia Beach, Va. (16.1 percent, 4.8 percent), Albuquerque, N.M. (17.4 percent, 4.6 percent), Memphis, Tenn. (15 percent, 4.4 percent), and San Francisco (18.3 percent, 4.3 percent). Seattle ranks 40th at 13.8 percent and 2.4 percent..
  • Mid-size cities (150,000 to 349,999 residents) include Tacoma, which is ranked 63rd in that category at 14.7 percent and 3.4 percent. Spokane (17.6 percent, 3.1 percent) is 76th, Vancouver (16.7 percent, 2.9 percent) is 85th, and Bellevue is 127th (13.4 percent, -0.5 percent). Cape Coral, Fla. Is first at 25.1 percent and 7.5 percent.

Tacoma gained notoriety in 2020 for the benefits of its older residents when it was designated as part of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, which  provides cities, counties and states with resources to become more age-friendly by tapping into national and global research, planning models, and best practices  Mayor Victoria Woodard said “the aging population is a group that we sometimes forget as policymakers. The city is dedicated to helping our residents of all ages live their best lives, and we will do our part to help make that happen.”

  • The small-city rankings (100,000-149,999 population) have Everett 75th at 13.8 percent and 3.5 percent. Columbia, Md. (19.5 percent, 8.9 percent) leads.

Source: U.S. Money Reserve, a consumer finances advisor and broker of government-issued gold and other precious metals.