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The Next Four Decades 2010-2050

The U.S. population grows older, courtesy of the baby boomers — and fewer new babies

Grandfather and boy fishing together.

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The U.S. age pyramid is growing older, as people are living longer and have fewer children.

The number of Americans age 65+ is projected to double from 40.2 million in 2010 to 88.5 million in 2050. The number of people in the oldest age bracket (85+) will nearly quadruple in that same period from 5.8 million to 19 million. This U.S. Census Bureau report projects national statistics, trends, and their implications for city planners and local governments.

Key Points

The U.S. age pyramid is growing older, as people are living longer and have fewer children and young people to sustain them. The older population will also be more ethnically diverse and female-laden than ever before.

Highlights include:

  1. The report makes clear that the baby boomer generation is the pioneer generation for this new reality. Understanding what communicates generationally with boomers will become more imperative than ever for local governments and community planners.

  2. With declining birthrates, what keeps the U.S. population from shrinking is immigration. This will continue to drive diversity and will place “melting pot” hot topics (language, immigration policies, and procedures, etc.) at the forefront of U.S. discourse. Community planners and local governments should know which immigration groups can be attracted to their own region and which changes need to be implemented to accommodate them.

  3. The explosive rise of the 65+ Hispanic population (from 2.9 million to 17.9 million) has legislative and cultural implications  for city planners and local governments.

  4. Though the future of the aging remains female-dominant, the gap between life expectancies of men and women will shrink over the next 40 years.

The implications of these census figures create ripple-effects throughout the fabric of America. Community planners and local governments will need to understand and plan for changes in family structures, city infrastructures, communication methods, volunteerism, transportation, health, and ethnic/linguistic needs.

How to Use

The report should be used by community planners and local governments to gain deeper understanding of dramatic demographic shifts at the national level, as well as, for discovering what trends can be expected at the local level. Outcomes include changes in policies, infrastructure, planning, and communication methods.

Research published May 2010

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