Foto by Liaurinko via Fotolia

By Alexander Roberts, Executive Director of Community Housing Innovations, Inc.

As young adults become part of a new urban renaissance streaming into the cities, the generation of seniors of 65 and over is retreating to the outer suburbs, significantly changing the age mix of these communities.

What might be called “Elder Belts” forming around New York and other major cities across the nation highlight the stark divide of generational preferences. The Age 65+ generations, raised with the American Dream of a house with a yard and an automobile parked in the garage, remain fixed on maintaining that dream. It is a preference reflected across all income levels and outside nearly all of America’s largest cities. It appears lifestyle and not income is driving this trend, a desire to locate outside of the cities in areas of low density.

Seniors are bypassing the inner ring suburbs of New York City and moving to the exurbs.

Elder maps

The shaded areas show towns that have experienced an increase of at least 20% of their 65+ populations since 2000


Young adults, on the other hand, are embracing the density and walkability of the cities with an economic component in that they are leaving the most expensive single family suburbs in the highest numbers (see CHI February 2014 report, Richest Communities on Long Island and in Westchester Experiencing Demographic Collapse of Young Adult Workforce).

Maps included in this report were created using PolicyMap, an online data and mapping tool that enables government, commercial, non-profit and academic institutions to access U.S. Census and other data about communities and markets across the US.

Elder Belts Surrounding Large Cities

According to the latest census data, the American Community Survey (2008 to 2012), the areas of major 65+ growth generally form in a ring beginning in the outer suburbs of large cities, whether it’s New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia or Atlanta. A snapshot of the New York Metropolitan area shows county subdivisions in which the increase in the population 65+ has grown at least 20% since the 2000 census.

This is a growth rate 25% higher than the national average of 16%. New York City experienced increases in its 65+ population well below the national average in three out of the five boroughs since the 2000 census, ranging from only two percent in Queens, three percent in Brooklyn, to a high of 17% in Staten Island and 16% in Manhattan. The Bronx saw a nine percent increase.

Looking at areas in which there has been an increase of at least 20% in the population of age 65+ indicates an obvious trend of seniors preferring northern Westchester to southern Westchester and Suffolk County to Nassau County.

Northern Westchester County has seen among the most extreme increase of over 65 residents north of New York, with Pound Ridge experiencing growth of 73% and Lewisboro 57% since the 2000 Census. On the other hand, inner ring suburbs such as Scarsdale only registered an 8% increase, while this cohort in Rye actually declined by 6% since 2000. Yonkers, Westchester’s largest city, had a loss of 2% of this population. New Castle, where New York’s Elder Belt begins in the north, saw its 65+ population increase 24%.

See the complete report and maps here.