Going Gray or Still Youthful? U.S. Cities Age Differently
Some seniors look forward to moving into retirement communities, where they’ll be safe from pounding music (hopefully!) and crime. Others want to live where they can enjoy the idiosyncrasies of different types and ages of people. With the rate at which the U.S. population is graying, it might seem that most cities and towns would have similar numbers of elder inhabitants, relative to their size. But this silver tsunami is not uniform. Just like the people that comprise them, American cities are going gray at different rates.
As a reverse mortgage professional, it’s helpful to know just how gray your market is and will be — and whether that suits or frustrates your target audience.
Perhaps surprisingly, eight of the ten “grayest” cities rank among the nation’s largest metropolitan statistical areas. This is a result of migration: young people tend to move West and South to seek their fortune, and rarely return. At the same time, few new young residents move in. So Pittsburgh, once an employment powerhouse, now leads the nation as the oldest city, with nearly a fourth of its population over 60. The former steel capital is followed by such other once robust manufacturing hubs as Buffalo at number three, Cleveland in fifth place, and Detroit at number nine.
Some cities boast a strong youth population due to immigration from abroad, but even that isn’t enough to stem the gray tide: while New York City and San Francisco are usually considered young and hip, the older population is nearly equal to that of the young in New York (ranked 15th in this demographic census, with 19 percent of the population over 60), while the City by the Bay is close behind in 17th place. Even youth magnets such as Portland and Seattle have gotten grayer over the last decade.
And the suburbs — once home to growing families — are the fastest graying areas of all, with the country’s largest metro areas now home to the oldest bedroom communities: New York City’s Nassau County, NY; Bergen County, NJ; Middlesex outside of Boston; and suburban St. Louis County.
What does this mean for reverse mortgage professionals? Homeowners who have lived in these rapidly graying areas for the long-term are likely to have enough equity in their homes to be excellent reverse mortgage prospects, especially as slower economic growth in such areas may make a reverse mortgage all the more attractive. But if your geographic area caters to the young and the restless, seniors who live there are more likely to be active, employed — and not necessarily ready to consider that they are now “the older generation.”