Residential Locations of Over 50s

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Residential Locations of Over 50s

Since 1980, the number of seniors, defined as those aged 65 and older, living in rural areas has been gradually increasing. Notwithstanding this the majority of seniors live in urban areas. Florida, with its mild climate is a particular favorite of those who have reached retirement age. With a census due this year, the data from the last census is quickly approaching its expiration date. However, at the current time it represents the most complete set of data available, and has been used as the basis of this research. For completeness, the definitions contained in the strategy document have been reproduced in this report.


  • According to the US Census Bureau, "urban areas represent densely developed territory, and encompass residential, commercial, and other non-residential urban land uses."
  • Two types of urban area are identified:


  • Rural areas "encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area."


  • Suburban is not a term used by the US Census Bearuru. Its common meaning is "pertaining to, inhabiting, or being in a suburb or the suburbs of a city or town.."


  • According to the 2012-2016 American Coomunity Survey (ACS), there are 46.2 million people aged 65 or over living in the US. 10.6 million of this group live in areas that are designated rural by the US Census. This equates to 22.9% of the population aged over 65.
  • The remaining 35.6 million seniors, comprising 77.1% of the senior population live in urban areas.
  • The number of seniors living in rural areas is increasing, as the following graphic showing the number of seniors living in rural areas between 1980 and 2016 illustrates.

Suburban Population

  • While the term suburban is used colloquially, it is not a term used by those in the population demographics field. Given this, there is no way of determining the percentage of seniors living in suburbia without having access to the raw data.

The 50-64 Year Olds

  • Several barriers were encountered attempting to locate data for the 40-64 year old demographic. While there is considerable data available for the over 65 demographic, there is little data on this specific group. The majority of the research available places them in a 50* category, but does not then further distinguish between the over 50s and over 65s, which is what is required in this instance.
  • The census data, which is the primary data source typically divides the population into ten-year age spans, , means this group is further divided again. There was no way to triangulate this data, without distorting the over 65 data. Given this, we have been unable to provide information on this group.

Most Popular Places to Live Among Seniors

  • Based on data collected in 2017 (the most recent available), AARP was able to collate a list of the most popular places to live in the US for those who have reached retirement age. It will come as no surprise to most that places in Florida featured heavily on this list.
  • The five most popular places to live for US seniors (retirement age and over) were (in descending order):
    • In first place, describing itself as an "active golf cart community is the fastest-growing metro area in the US, The Villages, FL. Seniors make up 56.5% of the population of 125,156. This massive retirement community is situated just outside of Orlando, FL.
    • Coming in second is Punta Gorda, FL, with its population of 182,033, of which 39.5% are seniors. Punta Gorda has been named the best place to live (at any age) by Money Magazine (on two occasions), Men's Journal, Forbes, and MSN. The city has a wide range of recreational activities on offer for all ages.
    • Rounding out the top three is Homosassa Springs, FL, with seniors making up 36.4% of the population of 145,647. Some of the key reasons for Homosassa Springs popularity are the affordable housing options available, low crime rate, and mild winters.
    • Sebring, FL, with its population of 102,833, of which 34.7% are seniors comes in fourth. It is another affordable option for seniors. Other factors contributing to its popularity include the low traffic volume and mild winters.
    • Finally, in fifth place is Brookings. Oregon. This picturesque coastal town in southern Oregon has a population of 19,764. Seniors make up 33.1% of the population. The moderate climate is considered a draw card, although the median house price of 348,000 and the cost of living that is 5.8% higher than the US as a whole, rule it out as an option for a number of seniors.

Seniors in Rural Communities

  • Seniors living in rural communities face a number of issue their peers living in urban areas to do have to deal with. The vast number of these issues are related to their health. The limited availability of services, resources, and suitable activities has in the past acted as a deterrent to seniors living rurally.
  • The lack of services, especially health related services, has resulted in a higher prevalence of chronic disease, and disability, and a decreased likelihood of healthy behaviors has contributed to a widening gap in life expectancy between those living in rural areas and their urban counterparts.
  • Older people are more likely to require "specialized medical and rehabilitation services, as well as innovative housing and public transportation options," and these are frequently not available in rural areas, which exacerbates the poorer health outcomes seen by those in rural communities.

Facts and Figures

  • 17.5% of the rural population are seniors compared to 13.8% of the urban population. There are high numbers of seniors living in rural communities in the middle of the US between North Dakota and Texas, while those living in urban areas are evenly distributed throughout the country, with the exception of the Florida clusters.
  • The following graphic illustrates the percentage of seniors living rurally between 2012 and 2016.The states that have the highest number of seniors living in rural communities are Vermont (65.3%) and Maine (62.7%).
  • In Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Vermont and West Virginia, more than half of their senior population lives in a rural area. 33 states have a greater proportion of seniors living in rural areas compared to the national average of 22.9%.
  • California District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Nevada, and New Jersey have less than 10% of their senior population living in rural areas,
  • The breakdown of the proportion of seniors living in rural areas and urban areas in each state is illustrated by the following graphic.

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