Authors: William H. Frey
June 1, 1999
The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy

The local effects of the aging of the American population have been overshadowed by concern about the national impact on programs like social security. But where particular segments of the older American population live matters. Older Americans differ: in health, wealth, ethnicity, race, and age. Generally, the young elderly have better health, more resources, and more social support. The older elderly, those in their late 70s and 80s, often are sicker, poorer, and more isolated. As the baby boom generation ages, there will be even more diversity among older Americans, and this diversity has spatial implications. Cities and slow-growing regions are generally home to the demographically disadvantaged, while the demographically advantaged tend to live in the suburbs and booming metropolitan areas. Cities and older areas will need to provide more community and public services for the elderly even as their tax bases dwindle. Suburbs, too, must prepare for the coming age wave, because their current and future elderly populations will eventually need an array of public services.

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