CADILLAC — As a nation, the United States is getting older. It is not an assumption and it is not a hypothesis — It's a fact.

Recently, the the U.S. Census Bureau reported the median age within the United States increased to 38.2 years in 2018, up from 37.2 years in 2010. The pace of this aging, however, is different across race and ethnicity groups, according to recently released 2018 Population Estimates by demographic characteristics for the nation, states and counties by the U.S. Census Bureau.

At the state level, the census bureau reported North Dakota was the only state to see a decline in its median age, from 37 years in 2010 to 35.2 in 2018. Maine, however, had the largest increase in median age this decade, going from 42.7 years in 2010 to 44.9 years in 2018, making it the state with the highest median age in the country, according to the census data. Utah had the lowest median age in 2018, at 31 years.

The share of the population age 65-and-older was 16% in 2018, growing by 3.2% or 1,637,270 in the last year, according to the census bureau. The 65-and-older age group has increased 30.2% or 12,159,974 since 2010. In contrast, during the same period, the under 18 population decreased by 1.1%, or a decline of 782,937 people.

It's a similar story at the county level, according to the census bureau.

Of the nation’s 3,142 counties, 2,566 or 81.7% had a higher median age in 2018 than in 2010. During this period, 16.7% or 525 had median age decreases and 1.6% or 51 saw no change. In 2018, out of all counties, 56.2% or 1,767 had a median age between 40 and 49 years, the recent report said.

Among those counties with populations of 20,000 or more in 2017 and 2018, Sumter County, Florida, had the highest median age of 67.8 and Madison County, Idaho, had the lowest median age of 23.2, according to the central bureau.

Locally, the data showed aging increases across the board albeit at different levels.

By far, Lake County aged the most with its median age going from 50.3 in 2010 to 54 in 2018, which was an increase by 3.7 years in the median age. Next was Osceola County who also was above the national average in aging with a median age of 43.9 in 2018 compared to a median age of residents in 2010 of 41.8.

Wexford County, however, was right on track with the national average of residents being a year older since 2010 with its median age in 2018 41.9 while in 2010 it was 40.9. Finally, Missaukee County showed the least amount of age increase as its median age in 2018 was slightly over its 2010 level. The median age in Missaukee County in 2018 was 43.1 compared to 42.9 in 2010.

Wexford County also had the youngest median age residents when compared to Lake, Missaukee and Osceola counties, but all were several years above the median age of the nation (38.2).

The census bureau also looked at the older population as it relates to rural American, which includes northern Michigan. The following data was presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America this past April in Texas.

There were 46.2 million older persons in the United States, with 10.6 million living in areas designated as rural by the U.S. Census Bureau, according to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey data. Considering that the oldest of the baby boomers, those born between mid-1946 and 1964, began turning 65 in 2011, the demographic changes ahead for rural America have only begun.

Most older people do not live in rural areas and most rural residents are not older. But an older, increasingly rural, population requires specialized medical and rehabilitation services, as well as innovative housing and public transportation options, according to the data from the Population Association of America meeting. An aging population clearly has the potential to shape rural America in new and important ways and the older population is becoming more diverse on a variety of demographic, social, and economic characteristics.

When looking at urban and rural population by size and geography, a larger segment of the population was 65 years and older in rural areas (17.5%) compared to urban areas (13.8%) during the 2012-2016 period. While the overall size of the rural population has both increased and decreased since 1980 – hovering around 60 million – the share made up by the older population has consistently grown, from 10.9% in 1980 to 17.5% during the period 2012 to 2016, according to the census bureau data

Although the total population in urban areas is much larger and has increased more dramatically over this period, the older population share has not. The urban older population share was 11.4% in 1980, increasing to 13.8% in the period 2012-2016.

Vermont (65.3%) and Maine (62.7%) had the largest percentages of rural older populations among states. Other states with large percentages of older rural population were in the South including Mississippi (54.7 percent), West Virginia (52.5%) and Arkansas (50.5%) and the Midwest including South Dakota (49.4%), North Dakota (46.5%), and Iowa (41.1%).

The three states or state equivalents with the smallest percentages of rural older population were the District of Columbia (0.0%), New Jersey (5.8%) and California (7.1%). The United States has an average of 22.9% of rural older population while Michigan is above average but drastically below the highest percentages at 29.9%.

Sometime this month, the census bureau has scheduled to release information regarding the older population in rural America from 2012-2016. The soon-to-be-released report uses 2012-2016 American Community Survey five-year estimates to study the population 65 years old and over in rural America relative to their urban counterparts.

This research looks at the demographics (sex, age, race and Hispanic origin), social (living arrangements, marital status, educational attainment and disability status), economic (employment status, income, poverty status and health insurance) and geographic characteristics of older Americans, according to the census bureau. 

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