Rise in senior population is changing Alaska

State labor economists say that the number of senior citizens in Alaska has increased by over 5 percent each year since 2010, faster than any other state.

As of 2018, Alaska had an estimated 87,304 seniors, up from 54,938 eight years earlier, and state labor economist Eddie Hunsinger projects in the June issue of Alaska Economic Trends that the state will have over 138,000 seniors who are 65 and older by 2035.

The growth in the 65-plus population is a long-term trend, but since 2011 it’s been amplified as the state’s especially large population of baby boomers began turning 65. Many of these folks, born between 1946 and 1964, settled in Alaska as young adults during the economic booms of the 1970s and 1980s.

The state’s negative net migration trend has also contributed to this shift to an older population, Hunsinger said, because since 2013 the state has lost substantially more people to migration each year than it has gained, leading to little or no total population growth. Still Alaska’s senior population is increasing numerically and as a percentage of the state in a much smaller share of the population than they are nationally.

Eighty-one percent of Alaska’s seniors live in the state’s population centers, with Southeast and the Kenai Peninsula having the highest concentration. Eighty-two percent of the state’s seniors also live in owner-occupied homes, compared to 64 percent of Alaskans overall, and 18 percent live in rentals.

Thirty-nine percent of Alaska seniors have a disability of some form, which the U.S. Census Bureau determines using six questions on hearing, vision, cognitive ability, ambulatory ability, self-care and living independently.

Alaska’s current senior population is relatively young, with a larger share in their 60s or early 70s, about 31 percent have some college education, and they are more likely to stay in the work force. In fact, about half of senior-headed households in Alaska had job earnings, the report said.

The entire article is online at labor.alaska.gov/trends/jun19.pdf.