The Silver Tsunami

Let’s face it: Our population in NH is aging. Our children are growing up, moving away, and leaving an elderly population behind. By 2020, our population of seniors over the age of 65 will be 20% of the State’s population, up from 13.5% in 2010. The traditional workforce, aged 20 to 64, is expected to decline between 2010 and 2040, while the population over 65 will likely double. One expert predicts that by 2030, almost 1/3 of the population, nearly half a million Granite Staters, will be over the age of 65.


From 2010 to 2012, New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning’s State Data Center estimates that New Hampshire’s population over 65% increased by 8.7%, although the total population only grew by .03%. Our total population in 2012 was 1,320,718, with 193,803 of those being over the age of 65.

From 2010 to 2014, the US Census Bureau estimates that NH’s population over age 65 increased nearly 2.5 percent, while those under the age of 18 shrunk by nearly 2 percent.

Researchers at both the Carsey Institute and NH’s Office of Energy and Planning project that by 2040 there will be an increase of approximately 130% in those residents who are over 65, and a whopping 231% increase in NH residents who are over 85 years.

While we are aging, our younger population is shrinking. From 2010 to 2012, the median age increased from 41.1 to 41.8 or 42. This was the largest increase in any state, putting NH at the third largest median age in the country. (Maine and Vermont were the only two that were higher.)

Why does this matter?

As our population ages, it places a number of stressors on the State and Federal government, including state agencies and programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, Meals on Wheels, veteran’s services, nursing homes, senior and handicap-accessible housing, and much more.

Should Social Security or pension laws be changed, disposable income for our aging residents will decrease, further harming our economy. And, as the population ages, the labor pool is reduced, meaning a smaller percentage of employees are available to keep our economy stable.

As a population ages, consumer spending changes. From 2020 to 2030, experts predict that health care is the only broad consumer spending category that is likely to increase, and estimate that it will increase by 4%. Spending on transportation, housing and education are likely to decrease as a result of our aging population. Income will generally fall.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic reports that those under the age of 25 usually spend an equal amount of their income on education, saving for retirement and insurance.

Adults over 25 generally spend much more on insurance and pensions, and much less on education.  In 2010, households headed up by someone between the ages of 45 and 55 had, on average, 2.1 vehicles, and were spending nearly $11,000 per year on transportation

And as consumers pass 65, health care becomes their biggest expenditure. In 2010, those households aged 75 or more  only 1.3 vehicles, and spent less than $5,000 for transportation costs. Between 2020 and 2030, the demand for automobiles is expected to decline by 2.7 percent, and transportation expenditures will decline by about 3.8 percent.

Why is NH’s population aging faster than most of the country?

NH has become less attractive to the younger generations. Kids are finding our college/university system is too expensive, so they are going to school in other states, and are not returning home. NH businesses can’t find local employees who are skilled for their jobs, and employees don’t want to move here because of the cost of housing, and the conditions of our roads, bridges and aging schools. Birth rates are down, and the population is living longer.

What can we do?
The greying of our seniors isn’t a new concern. In 2009, the Governor’s Task Force for the Recruitment and Retention of a Young Workers issued a report which made several recommendations related to attracting and retaining younger workers.

We need to work together to find bipartisan solutions to make New Hampshire, and especially Salem, a good place for families to be able to raise their children, educate their children, and provide good jobs to entice parents and their families to move here or remain here, which will help offset the flow of the “silver tsunami.”

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