Population trend with arrows
(Credit: noEnde / Getty Images)

The US older adult population is expected to surpass the size of younger age groups in 2029, according to the latest US Census Bureau population projections, which also forecast that the nation’s population will reach a high of almost 370 million in 2080 before declining to 366 million in 2100.

The 2023 national population projections indicate that the US experienced “notable shifts” in components of population change over the past five years, including the increasing older adult population.

The statistics are being watched closely by the long-term care industry as it clambers to capture a growing number of prospective residents while also addressing workforce shortages.

“In an ever-changing world, understanding population dynamics is crucial for shaping policies and planning resources,” Sandra Johnson, a Census Bureau demographer, said in a statement

Continued declines in fertility are projected to shift the age structure of the population to more older adults compared with children aged fewer than 18 years beginning in 2029. By 2100, 29.1% of the population is projected to be 65 or more years old compared with 16.4% of the population being aged 18 or fewer years. The 85-and-older population also is projected to increase from 1.95% of the population in 2022 to 7.46% of the population in 2100.

Similarly, the median age of the US population, which represents the age at which half the population is older and half is younger, is projected to increase over time. In 2022, the median age for the total population was 38.9. In 2100, the median is projected to increase to 47.9 years. 

The US Census Bureau’s 2020 Service Annual Survey showed that aging adults boosted the bottom lines of assisted living and continuing care retirement communities. More recent studies, however, show that up to 80% of older adults — 47 million — don’t have the financial resources to cover the care they may need down the road. 

Earlier this year, Argentum published a white paper touting the value of assisted living in providing access to affordable care and services. According to that report, 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, and 70% likely will need some form of long-term care in their lifetimes. 

At the same time, the industry is grappling with a workforce shortage that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2040, long-term care settings will have 20 million job openings, and 3 million of those openings will be in senior living. 

Argentum noted that the federal infrastructure already is in place to address senior living workforce shortages, but it will require retooling current federal workforce development programs to better meet the needs of the industry.

The Census Bureau’s 2023 national population projections provide estimates of the future US population by age, sex, race, Hispanic origin and nativity through 2060, and by age, sex and nativity only through 2100. The bureau noted that different levels of immigration could change the population projection in 2100 by as much as 209 million people.