Where Do the Nation’s Oldest Citizens Live? Communally, in Cities

The majority of the nation’s oldest citizens do not live by themselves—they live in some sort of communal setting or with family members, and in the next four decades their ranks are projected to grow substantially.  

Only a little more than third of centenarians, both male and female, lived alone in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while most lived with others.

 “As people get older, things in life happen—like you might become a widow or you might have a disability, and because of those circumstances, living arrangements often change,” says Amy Symens Smith, chief of the age and special populations branch at the Census Bureau.


Female centenarians are more likely to live in a nursing home, at 35.2%, compared to 18.2% of their male counterparts. Males who have passed the 100-year mark are more likely to live with others in a household (43.5%), compared to 28.5% of females in the same age range.

While the number of centenarians in the nation is not huge, relatively speaking—there were about 53,364 in 2010, up almost 66% from three decades ago—the U.S. can expect a huge growth in the percent of the population that will be 85 or older.

Between 2012 and 2060, the 85+ age demographic is expected to grow by 208%. The next highest growth demographics are the 75-79 age range, with an expected 131% growth during that time frame, and the 80-84 demographic, which the Census Bureau projects will grow by 130%.



On the other end of the age spectrum, percentage change in population is much less significant. While the 35-39 year range is expected to get a 38% bump between 2012 and 2060, the change in the collective growth of the 20-34 demographic averages to just 20.3%. 

As people get older, they’re more likely to live in urban areas, as do a “large majority of the oldest U.S. citizens,” according to the Census Bureau.

“As age increases, the percentage living in urban areas also increases,” says Symens Smith. 

About 85% of centenarians lived in urban locales in 2010, a slightly higher percentage than the 84% of the 90-plus demographic, 82% of those in their 80s, and 77% of seniors in their 70s. 

“Living in the city, you have a lot more mental stimulation and the symphony and better doctors and hospitals and more social networking,” says Gary Small, a professor on aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center in Los Angeles, in a USA Today article about the Census data. “There are more resources, and there is better transportation.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace