The population of Sarasota and Manatee counties does not rank among the oldest in the United States but, like two-thirds of the nation’s counties, its median age keeps edging upward.
According to updated data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 2016, the median age reached 55.6 in Sarasota County and 47.8 in Manatee.
By comparison, the nation’s median age reached 37.9 — up from 35.3 since 2000.
“Our country’s demographic profile is aging and looks a lot different than it did two decades ago,” bureau demographer Lauren Medina said in an announcement.
“The baby-boom generation is largely responsible for this trend,” Peter Borsella, a bureau demographer, added. “Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and will continue to do so for many years to come.”
Residents age 65 and older now account for 15.2 percent of the nation’s population, up from 12.4 percent in 2000.
As of 2016, Maine continued to have the highest median age (44.6) — followed by New Hampshire (43), Vermont (42.7) and West Virginia (42.2). Although better known than those states as a retirement mecca, Florida ranked fifth with a median age of 42.1.
The youngest states or jurisdictions include North Dakota (34.8), Texas (34.5), Alaska (33.9), the District of Columbia (33.9) and Utah (30.8).
The acceleration of the age boom in Florida has compelled more communities here to join the Age-Friendly movement, an initiative sponsored by the World Health Organization and AARP to help populations prepare for the effects of this demographic shift. Kathy Black, a professor at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee who is instrumental in the Age-Friendly Sarasota effort, said recently that it’s important for people to question their own assumptions about others based on age.
“The world is dealing with ageism, and it plays out in interactions with people; there’s a lot of social capital that’s languishing in our communities,” she said. “The county and government are one aspect of an age-friendly, but people power is a lot more important. Transportation and housing are the biggest issues.”
Florida’s Sumter County, home to a large portion of of the sprawling 55-and-older community The Villages, topped the list of counties in having the highest median age at 67.1 — having increased from 49.2 since 2000. With a median age of 58.8 (up from 54.3 in 2000), Charlotte County followed Catron County, New Mexico, (60.5) to rank as the county with the third oldest population in the country.
If you want to live in the community with the youngest overall population in the nation, you will have to move to Chattahoochee County, Georgia. Do not expect to find a partying college town, though. Its youthful demographic can be attributed to the fact that the Fort Benning military base covers nearly three-fourths of the county. Yet even Chattahoochee’s median age of 24.4 is getting older, up from 23.2 in 2000.
Sarasota: 1 in 3 are seniors
As expected, Florida, which continues to attract about 1,000 new residents daily, is getting grayer. From 2010 to 2016, the Sunshine State’s median age steadily rose from 40.8 to 42.1.
In Sarasota County, the median age is up from 52.6 in 2000 to 55.6 as of last summer.
Of the county’s overall population of 412,569, females continued to outnumber males, 215,622 to 196,947. They also tended to be older, 57 compared to 54.1 for the men.
Of the population younger than 18, however, Sarasota County’s males slightly outnumbered females — 30,867 to 29,065. That age group is expanding at a slower rate than others, at 59,932 compared with 59,642 seven years ago.
The 18-to-64 age bracket has grown since 2000 in Sarasota County but not as much as the senior population. Census takers counted 206,718 (99,280 men and 107,438 women) as of last July compared with 201,602 six years earlier.
Compare that with the growth in the 65-and-older category, which accounts for slightly more than a third of the county’s total population. The 2016 census shows 145,919 Sarasota residents in that group (66,800 men outnumbered by 79,119 women) compared with 118,796 in 2000.
Of those 145,919 seniors, 22,900 (9,411 men and 13,489 women) were age 85 or older — up from 18,229 in 2000.
Manatee: Counting more kids
Manatee’s population of 375,888 is considerably younger than its neighboring county. Yet it, too, is seeing its median age on the rise — at 47.8 compared with 45.8 in 2000.
Manatee’s female residents also tend to be older than the males, with a median age of 49.2 compared with 46.2 for the guys.
The younger than 18 crowd in Manatee is growing faster than the same age group in Sarasota County, with 71,416 compared with 66,147 seven years ago. That boost can be at least partially attributed to families with children moving into Manatee’s booming suburbs, which are experiencing a demand for more schools.
As they do in Sarasota County, however, infants, children and teens comprise the only age bracket in which males outnumber females — 36,326 compared with 35,091.
The 18-to-64 group in Manatee increased from 181,716 in 2000 to 205,996 by last summer. Women in that category outnumbered the men, 106,355 to 99,641.
Yet compare that 13.3 percent jump in young and middle-aged adults with the 30 percent increase Manatee experienced in the 65-and-older category.
Census takers counted 98,476 seniors in Manatee (26 percent of the total population) compared with 75,583 six years earlier (when that segment comprised 23 percent of the total). Older women outnumbered men in their age group 52,855 to 45,631.
Of that elder population, 13,396 (5,600 men and 7,796 women) were age 85 or older — compared with 10,040 in 2000.
Herald-Tribune Staff Writer Barbara Peters Smith contributed to this report.