Aging America: Where are the Seniors?

graying of americaFor years we have been warned about the looming, profound impacts that the aging of the U.S. population will have on the country. Well, the gray wave has arrived. Since 2000, the senior population has increased 29% compared to overall population growth of 12%. The percentage of Americans in the senior set has risen from 12.4% to 14.1%, and their share of the population is projected to climb to 19.3% by 2030. There are two principal causes for this: the baby boom generation is reaching 65 years old, while the U.S. fertility rate has fallen markedly in recent decades, despite immigration, and now hovers around the replacement rate.

To find the cities that are going gray the fastest, Forbes looked at the change from 2000 through 2013 in the share of seniors in the populations of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, the 52 metropolitan statistical areas that have more than a million residents. Some 13.2% of the residents of these 52 MSAs are seniors, a lower proportion than nationwide.

The city with the highest overall concentration of seniors?  No big surprise – in Florida, and in the slow-growing Northeast and Midwest. Among the 52 biggest metropolitan areas, Tampa-St. Petersburg has the highest share of seniors in its population at 18.2%. The retirement mecca of Miami, where 16.7% of its population is over 65, ranks third in the nation, and Jacksonville is 18th, at 13.7%.  However in first place is Atlanta, where the share of seniors in the population rose from 7.7% in 2000 to 10.4% in 2013, the biggest increase in the nation. In raw numbers, the over-65 population of the metro area rose to 572,534, an increase of  73.5% since 2000.  The percentage of the population in fast-growing Raleigh, N.C., that is over 65 grew from 8.0% to 10.2% in 2013, putting it in second place.

Outside of Florida almost all the retirement capitals are in the Northeast and Midwest. The second most senior region is Pittsburgh, where 18.0% of the population is over 65. The old Steel City is followed by a host of Rust Belt metro areas: Cleveland, Rochester, Providence, Hartford, St. Louis and Detroit, all of which have a senior set that makes up 14% or more of the overall population.

Austin, Texas, has the smallest proportion of seniors, at 9.2%, but its senior share is rising.  Salt Lake City, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are also below 10%, while Raleigh has the fifth-lowest proportion of seniors, at 10.2%. Not surprisingly, all of these relatively young cities are experiencing strong domestic in-migration.

The metropolitan areas that have seen the biggest jumps in the senior proportion of their populations, have, for the most part, been the same ones that have drawn strong net domestic in-migration of millennials, families and working adults. The rise in the share of seniors in these cities isn’t because seniors are moving to them in overwhelming numbers (data shows they move less than all other age groups). Rather, many of those who have reached 65 since 2000 in the cities that top our list moved to them when they were younger, generally in search of economic opportunities or better lives, and have aged there.

For Forbes’ full list of the top cities, click here.