Strong Tower

The U.S. state with the oldest population has to be Florida, right? That’s where elderly people from the Northeast go to retire.

Actually, no.

Surprisingly, when you measure each state (and territory) by the median age of its citizens, you find that Maine is America’s oldest state, with a median age of 45.0 years old. Puerto Rico is second (43.6), followed by New Hampshire (43.1) and Vermont (43.0).

Florida comes in 6th by this measure, median age 42.5, just behind number 5, West Virginia (42.9), and ahead of Connecticut and Delaware (both median age 41.1), followed by Pennsylvania (40.8), Rhode Island, and New Jersey (both 40.1) The northeast, and the east generally, is where to look for older Americans.

At the other end of the spectrum, Utah (31.3), the District of Columbia (34.2), Alaska and Texas (both 35.0), and North Dakota (35.3) have the lowest median age across their population. The overall median age for the entire country is 38.2 years.


Rank State,
federal district,
or territory
Median age
in years
 United States 38.2
1  Maine 45.0
2  Puerto Rico 43.6
3  New Hampshire 43.1
4  Vermont 43.0
5  West Virginia 42.9
6  Florida 42.5
10  Pennsylvania 40.8
49  North Dakota 35.3
50  Alaska 35.0
50  Texas 35.0
52  District of Columbia 34.2
53  Northern Mariana Islands 32.8
54  Utah 31.3

But is that the best way to measure which states have an older or younger population?
Why not look at the states with the highest percentage of citizens aged 65 or older?

Even by that measure, the state of Maine comes in first; 20.6% of its citizens are older than age 65. By this measure, Florida comes in second (20.5%), followed by West Virginia (19.9%), Vermont (19.4%), Delaware and Montana (both 18.7%), Hawai’i (18.4%), Pennsylvania (18.2%), New Hampshire (18.1%), and South Carolina (17.7%).Older Americans are least likely to live in Utah (11.1% of the population), Alaska (11.8%), Texas (12.6%), Georgia (13.9%), Colorado (14.2%), and California (14.3%).

The best explanation for the higher concentration of older Americans in the Northeast is that younger adults in those states are moving south and west, where there are greater educational and job opportunities, while their parents are left to age in place. California and Texas have been especially popular destinations for those younger migrants, which has kept their populations relatively young.