Whenever I visited my late parents at their winter condo in Florida, I would kid them about living in “God’s waiting room.” After all, the folks that congregated with them around the pool were mostly in their 70s, some older. I also recall eating in a local Florida deli many years ago where the bus boys were all easily over 60. (Should we refer to them as bus men?)
I happened recently upon some 2010 U.S. census data that spiked out age levels by state, and I thought I would confirm the popularly held notion that Florida is the “oldest” state in the United States. The answer is both yes it is and no it isn’t. To paraphrase a former President, it depends what your definition of “is” is.
At 17.3 percent of its population, Florida does have the highest ratio of citizens age 65 or older. West Virginia, at 16 percent, ranks second. But interestingly, Florida is a piker when it comes to citizens 85 or older, ages at which, if not knockin’ on heaven’s door, you are at least striding up the front walkway. (Maybe the nursing homes in Florida do not promote long life, or maybe Florida’s older citizens go home to die up north surrounded by their children and grandchildren.) The states with the highest percentage of 85+ citizens, all tied at 2.5 percent, are Iowa, North Dakota and Rhode Island. Florida, at just 2.3 percent of these super senior citizens, trails Connecticut, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.
Moreover, California has Florida beat in sheer numbers of older citizens. By most measures, Florida is not God’s waiting room. I owe my mom and dad and their septuagenarian friends an apology.