Data & Statistics - Facts About California's Elderly

California is projected to be one of the fastest growing States in the nation in total population. In 1990, California comprised 12 percent of the nation's population and is expected to have 14 percent of the nation's population by 2020 (an increase of 15.7 million people). In California, the elderly population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the total population and this growth will vary by region. The maps show the percentage increases for the elderly (age 60 and over) and the oldest old (age 85 and over) populations from 1990 to 2020 for all 58 counties in California. The numbers encircled refer to Planning and Service Areas (PSA). Within each PSA is an Area Agency on Aging responsible for planning and administering services for seniors.

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Percentage Increase of the Elderly Population: 1990 to 2020

The elderly age group will have an overall increase of 112 percent during the period from 1990 to 2020. More than half the counties will have over a 100 percent increase in this age group. Eleven of these counties will have growth rates of over 150 percent. These counties are located throughout the central and southern areas of the State. The influence of the 60 and over age group on California is expected to emerge most strongly between 2000 to 2020.

Map of Percentage Increase of Elderly Population Aged 60 and Over, Years 1990 - 2020:

Map of the Percentage Increase of the Oldest Old Population Aged 85 and Over, Years 1990 to 2020

The oldest old age group will increase at even a faster rate than the elderly, having an overall increase of 143 percent during the period from 1990 to 2020. Of the State's 58 counties, 38 will have increases of more than 150 percent, 26 will have increases of more than 200 percent, and 11 will have over a 300 percent increase in the number of persons aged 85 and older. Of these 11 counties, all but one are located in the central and northern areas of the State. Counties can expect to experience even higher growth rates after 2020. In particular, the influence of the 85 and over age group on California will emerge most strongly between 2030 to 2040 as the first of the baby boomers reach 85 years of age.

Map of the Percentage Increase of the Oldest Old Population Aged 85 and Over, Years 1990 to 2020

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Sources and Quality of Data

These data are drawn primarily from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1980 Census General Social and Economic Characteristics, 1990 Census of Population and Housing, State of California Department of Finance, County Population Projections, May 1993 and December 1998. Data was also drawn from the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey. The projections for Los Angeles City are included in Los Angeles County and were not separated for purposes of these charts

The following assumptions apply to the Department of Finance, County Population Projections data: As the benchmark (or starting population), the Department of Finance has used the 1990 Census counts as modified by the Bureau of the Census for known misreporting. These counts represent a modification to the age distribution of the Census count and not an adjustment for undercount. This is consistent with the population which is being used by the Census Bureau for current estimates as well as the national projections. The base benchmark population was projected using the final assumptions, i.e., local age and race/ethnic fertility will merge toward state norms, life expectancy will follow national trends, and there will be an annual average net in-migration to California of 203,000 throughout the forecast period. These population projections depict only one possible course of future population change, i.e., the one reflecting recent trends in fertility, mortality, and migration. These projections do not necessarily show what is most desirable but rather what can be reasonably expected if current trends continue until the year 2040.

Data describing the overall population by age and gender (such as percentage of elderly) refer to the entire population; data for specific population characteristics such as labor force participation refer to the civilian non-institutional population. Many of these and related data may be accessed via the World Wide Web at

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