The last ten years have seen staggering growth in the population of senior citizens in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, seniors increased their ranks by 20% from 2000 to 2010 – twice the rate of the general population – and that rate is expected to more than double over the current decade.
And while the aging of the American population has figured prominently in the national political discourse, McIlwain suggests that it is poised to have an even greater impact at the local level.
"Seniors are wealthier than any other age group despite the recession, their rates of homeownership are higher, they support the local economy, they pay local taxes, and they have a very low crime rate," McIlwain explains. "While they are politically active, their interests often clash with those of young families concerned about spending on schools and roads."
Even among urban regions, population trends for seniors vary widely. Seniors in some metro areas, like Raleigh, grew at triple the national average, while many others saw an exodus of older people.
In noting that some of their migration was directed toward suburban town centers (in addition to traditional urban centers), McIlwain suggests that the political and market influence of those seniors moving to "boutique cities" may reflect those of their urban dwelling cohorts.
In general, however, the population of seniors in larger metropolitan regions grew faster than it did in their corresponding urban centers. According to McIlwain, "There are still more empty nesters who have stayed put in the suburbs-'aging in place,' as it is now called...So, despite an increase in urban living among seniors, other moves (or nonmoves) by seniors over the past decade have been more significant."