Monday, April 16, 2012

Grandparents in the Herkimer and Oneida Counties ACS Data

The general consensus is that we, as a region, are growing grayer, which is a nice way to say are getting older. With the aging of the baby-boomer generation, we certainly expect to see our median age continue to rise. Since 1970, the median age for Herkimer and Oneida Counties has risen by about 11 years – from 31.1 years old to 42.1 in Herkimer County, and from 29 to 40.8 in Oneida County.

So it seems pretty reasonable to assume that people over the age of 65 are becoming a larger part of our makeup. The data, however, don’t show that to be quite true.

Let’s start first with the actual numbers. It IS true that if you look back, let’s say, 50 years ago to the 1960 Census, there were fewer elderly people (those age 65 or older) living in either county. In Herkimer County the number has risen from about 8,300 elderly living there in 1960 to nearly 11,000 in 2010. Similarly, Oneida County has seen a rise from about 29,000 people age 65 or older in 1960 to more than 38,000 in the most recent census. But those numbers are a little misleading.

ALL of the increase in numbers of elderly came prior to 1990. Between 1960 and 1990, Herkimer County saw its older population grow by about 2,700; in Oneida County it rose nearly 10,000. But in the twenty years since then, both counties have seen a decline in the actual numbers of elderly – roughly 200 fewer elderly were counted in the 2010 Census in Herkimer County, and about 600 fewer in Oneida County.

When we look at the percentage of the population people age 65 and over represent, it shows a similar pattern – a steady rise from 1960 through 1990, and then a flattening out of this age group as a proportion of our population. In 1960 older persons (age 65+) made up about 11% or 12% of the population. Now they represent about 16% to 17%. That proportion however, hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years. In Herkimer County it has remained dead flat at 16.8%; in Oneida County it as hovered around 16%.

So does this mean that the baby-boomers are not going to have the impact that we thought in our region ? Hardly. If we look at the working age population that is within 20 years of retirement age (assuming retirement age is 65 years old), we can see how the number of people that will soon be joining the ranks of the elderly is much different now than it was 20 years ago. In 1990, there were almost 60,000 people between the ages of 45 and 65 that were poised to move toward retirement. In 2010, we have more than 85,000 people in that latter stage of the “working age” range. So have no fear, the Baby Boomers are just around the corner from having their full impact felt.

So who are our present age 65+ seniors? Well, many of them are grandparents. The American Communities Survey now collects data about grandparents and their changing roles in our communities. To see both Herkimer and Oneida Counties data on grandparents (including their demographics, income, and living conditions) view the pdf from the 2010 Five Year ACS profile on Grandparents.