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Identity & Community

New Report Probes State of Aging in Allegheny County

While Allegheny County remains one of the oldest counties in the nation, the national senior population is actually growing more quickly than the senior population in the county.

That’s according to a new report from Pittsburgh Today and the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research, or UCSUR.

In 2000, 17.8 percent of people in Allegheny County were 65 or older, compared to 12.4 percent nationwide. In 2010, the gap began closing, with 16.8 percent seniors in the county and 13 percent nationwide.

Forecasting models suggest that by 2040, national numbers will catch up to Allegheny County, and an estimated 21 percent of residents will be 65 or older.

Scott Beach, associate director of UCSUR, said there are serious implications to such growth in the population of older Americans.

“The proportion of the population that’s going to be 65 and older is going to be on the uptake,” Beach said. “The question will be who will take care of the baby boomers?”

Beach said the vast numbers of aging baby boomers will have an impact on the “dependency ratio,” a metric which describes the ratio of people not working, children under 14 and adults over 65, to the ratio of people that are working, generally those between 15 and 65. He said typically this ratio has been around 5 or 6 but that it will reduce to 3 or 4 by 2040.

The report showed that seniors in Allegheny County have lower rates of poverty than the nationwide average. In 2012, 7.8 percent of Allegheny County seniors lived in poverty, compared to 9.5 percent nationwide.

However, Beach said there are gender and race disparities hidden in that statistic.

“We know that the poverty rate is higher for African American older adults, particularly female African Americans have some of the highest poverty rates,” Beach said.

According to the report, 21 percent of African American females over age 75 live in poverty.

While 47 percent of white seniors said they were confident in their ability to take care of basic expenses and medical bills, less than 25 percent of African Americans expressed the same confidence.

Still, Allegheny County’s seniors expect to be more comfortable than the nationwide average. Thirty-seven percent of local seniors said they were confident about retirement, compared to 28 percent nationwide.

While the age of retirement for current retirees in Allegheny County tends to be younger than the nationwide average, the opposite is true for those seniors who are still working.

“More of our current workers actually expect to retire at a later age, 66 or older, than the comparative U.S. figures,” Beach said.

Thirty-eight percent of seniors nationwide expect to retire at age 66 or older, while 42 percent of Allegheny County seniors have the same expectation.

The full report is available at the UCSUR website.