Michigan is No. 1! At getting old. That’s not good news.


Michigan’s battle of the birthdays continues, as more than one-quarter of the state’s counties have a median age that’s eligible for AARP membership.

U.S. Census data released Thursday show that 21 of Michigan’s 83 counties have a median age of 50 years old or older, the highest in the nation.Next closet was Montana with 13 (out of 56 counties) and Texas with 12 (out of 254), according to estimates released Thursday morning by the U.S. Census.

Overall, Michigan’s median age of 39.8 years ranks it the 12th oldest in the country. As recently as 1990, Michigan’s median age was younger than the nation.

But huge areas of northern Michigan are pulling that number up, raising questions about economic vitality in areas where far more people are closer to retirement than their first day of work.

The changes have been apparent for years – there are fewer and fewer obstetric doctors because there are fewer and fewer births in many parts of the state. In a number of counties, death outnumber births.

Overall, the nation is aging as well. But Michigan’s rise has been marked –  only two counties got younger from 2010 to 2018 and those were home to major colleges which attract young students, noted Kurt Metzger, a Metro Detroit demographer and mayor of Pleasant Ridge, who has studied population trends for decades.

“While an older population is great for health care and related retirement-based businesses, it is not one that will drive entrepreneurship and associated business growth,” Metzger wrote in a summary of his observations about the changes, revealed in the Thursday release of new census data.

Economists have warned that the state faces a worker shortage, with retiring workers not replaced by younger ones.

Metzger said only nine Michigan counties had a median age less than the national average of 38.2 years. He attributed that, in part, to the colleges and universities in Kent, Ottawa, Kalamazoo, Isabella, Houghton, Mecosta, Washtenaw, and Ingham counties.

The only other county below the national average is Wayne, home to Detroit. Although the county it has Wayne State and other colleges and universities, it also has the highest share of people of color -- 50 percent -- who tend to be younger than the white, non-Hispanic population, Metzger said.

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Ren Farley
Thu, 06/20/2019 - 10:23am

Slow population growth and the rapid aging of the state's population play important roles in damping economic growth in the state. The state's economic output is, pretty much, a product of the number of workers and labor productivity. Will the Governor and legislature consider a developing programs to promote immigration to Michigan from the rest of the country and abroad?

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 11:17am

It seems you are stereotyping the aging and ignoring them as a market, as a source of creativity, an energy for change, and the knowledge and skills to implement change and growth.

The difference of the aging is that are more self contained and don't necessarily response to the tried means of appealing to the young.

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 12:36pm

Duane, I agree with everything you had to say. I'm glad to see we have similar ideas that, unfortunately, many people don't seem to consider when they look at "us over 60's". I still work, my husband is retired but still very active with hobbies, and helping me. I also own and operate two businesses from home. Yes, it's a lot of work, but to be successful, it takes focus, and time to stay current and open to new ideas and keep up with technology. Over my "working years" I've honed my skills and knowledge, have been flexible and used my common sense, built and grown my "brands", and have come to understand that I must change with the times. I can't imagine ignoring the senior market, or any other age group that might purchase my products.

We've been around a long time. I have made good choices, and some not so good choices over the years. The best thing I have going, for me is, most of us who are still in business learned from our mistakes! Many seniors here in Michigan continue to contribute to our communities and state's prosperity, and that should not be forgotten just because we are on the "other side" of 60!

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 3:55pm

Thank you, Duane. I agree with your assessment of this article and urge folks at The Bridge
to think about investigating and reporting on the paradigm shift Michigan will need to make to promote and harness the creativity, knowledge and skills of older adults, for the benefit of all Michiganders.

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 2:52pm

Sterotypes are stereotypes because they happen to be true most of the time. Older people dont go outside of their already established comfort zones and toll continue to do what they do as they do it now most likely until they die. That's a stagnant market, and not worth investing into.

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 1:13am

You talk about 'comfort zone, we are all creatures of habit and marketers try to influence those habits. The reality is that the younger have less established habits thus are easier to impact. What I am offering is that that the older [over 55, over 65, over 75, etc.] have more potential for spending [on our selves] and contributing than the young and nobody is will to working for it, try to influence our habits, change our 'comfort zone'. Except the scammers, they will call every day and even when they are reject every which way we can.
The other part of their work is that we have learned to be more value driven and it takes more effort to prove to us there is added value. Look at Bridge, when I started with Bridge my donations have steadily declined, and were significantly more generous then the minimum now and no one at Bridge cares enough to send an Email showing interest, this is similar my experience with United Way. Things have gotten better for us and yet like you the justification to ignore us is the stereotype based thinking. For your edification, the stereotypes are at best a mental shorthand that are never right for the individual and each group [ethnic, gender, age, education, etc.] is made of unique individuals. Think of the groups you are considered part of or will become part of and compare yourself to the [your] stereotype of them, do you fit it or are you a bit different?

Why do you think the politicians keep arguing over the inheritance tax, because their is a pot of money available. Consider how the marketers keep saying how we won't have enough money when we retire, so we create the habit of saving and investing trying to be ready, we become frugal. A few years after we retire [even after the market dive over 10 years ago] we found we do have money and it continues to grow and nobody is interested, they are after the 'young' money [its easier to get]. I tell you United Way doesn't do anything special focused on the 'old', Bridge does try anything different targeting the 'old', the marketers such as for cars, or investing, or the subscription services such as the fresh food, the online services, the home service [such as concierge medical] don't target those of us.

They don't even ask, or recognize when the targeting ideas are presented to them. What is the staying, perception is reality, perception is created and reinforced by lazy thinking. What is that Toby Keith song 'I ain't as good as I once was, the point is that I am not as quick or not as strong, but I have had a long career being able to contribute more than I cost. One of the things I learn and still practice is that asking the right question is more important than have an answer. Even you are so inexperienced that you are telling me what the answer is when I am showing your stereotype fails. You should have started with your stereotype and asked questions to see if I fit into it and then made you case for how my perspective failed, but you so believe it you believe stereotyping you can't accept that there are excepts. You prove my view, about lazy thinking ignores the value and potential impact of the ever growing group of over 55.

What is you question, I am so self confident that I am willing in a public forum to discuss and risk being proved wrong, are you? I notice Bridge isn't, if they were they would be asking how could they target the over 55s for donations.

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 6:30pm

Don't take this piece personally. The aged demographic is not the future which is the article pointing out. I'm sure your experience is os value but most your life is behind you. Youth is what's needed to go forward.

Wed, 10/09/2019 - 7:16pm

Since retiring, I have taken up swimming 4 days a week, bought season play tickets, joined a writing group, published two books of poems ( no they were not self published), traveled to Scotland and Ireland, vacationed in Florida, Seattle, Northern Micbigan, and planning Alaska--i eat out two to three days a week, attend movies, and hired lawn work out because I just dont have time. Most retirees I know either work part time, or help children. They also spend time doing things they like to the extent they can afford it. They fill a significant number of roles in charities that need volunteers. Dont act like we dont fill at of shoes that keep this economy running.

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 11:13am

"Michigan is No. 1! At getting old. That’s not good news."
Why am I getting the feeling that Bridge doesn't believe that getting older is success, that aging doesn’t lend to a person being a better resource for their community, that maturing, that added knowledge and skills, that learning through experience can be valuable to others.
I wonder if those at Bridge on an individual level believe aging isn’t the preferred over not being part of an older community. Personally, being one of those raising the average age in my community, I enjoy getting old and sharing what I have learned.
Since Bridge doesn't seem to want the aging in Michigan, and since I am resisting the alternative, then my preferred action is to look to move to a community [state] that wants us and what we have to offer. It’s surprising that Bridge and other don’t want our moneys [spending, taxes, and charitable donations (I wonder Bridge never rejects donate by the old)]. Especially low users of tax paid services, we don’t use the schools, we haven’t a had fire call, a police call, a social services call.

Bridge is just feeding the stereotyping by businesses and local agencies and the overlooking of a valuable resource, the knowledge and skills, the established work ethic, the commitment to their communities [with more control of their time to invest through volunteering, involvement, creativity, flexibility, diversity of perspective], and as a market [moneys]. It is seems to be time to accept Bridge’s message and for us to try to move on and leave Michigan to Bridge and their thinking about those getting old.

David Waymire
Thu, 06/20/2019 - 11:46am

Duane, the issue isn't that YOU are getting older...or that your friends are getting older...we appreciate all that folks who have experience and good judgment can offer. But issue is that there is not enough people coming up behind you so that when you retire...or die...there will be sufficient workers and dues payers to keep society moving forward. This isn't a message about ageism...it's a message about a missing cohort of necessary young people. So go get old...but also be open to the activities that will attract more young people to our state (including an immigration policy that will allow those who want to come to Michigan to make a better life for themselves to do so).

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 1:17pm

The problem is you and others are writing off a whole and ever growing group. You think only in fulltime employment, its as if you never heard of job sharing, never heard of flex time, not heard of part-time work, its as if you not heard of working at home. Over the past many years we have heard of creative ways to accommodate many demographics and yet your answer has so simplified in writing off a group without even a question about this being a resource and how do we tap into it. What do you want from the young and why don't you believe that the old has that to offer?

I agree that death is an assured end to members of this group, but to stop trying to attract them them when they have turn 50, 55, 60, even 100 is short sighted and misses a whole range of opportunities.

I am old and getting older and you want me to be open to activities that attract young people, but you show not even the smidgen of interest in attracting the 'old' and getting them to be part of Michigan's economy. All I want is you to think about the older and ask how can they be more of a participant in the marketplace, why are you so resistant to the idea of the old as part of the marketplace? Maybe it is time to ask the old what they think, what ideas they have, and how their perspective maybe different enough that it could spark some new thinking in you about the young by thinking about how to tap into the value available in the old.

On a personal note, after a lifetime of contributing to society through your work do you think you will stop having much to offer after you retire [become old], how will you words today sound to you at that time in the future.

Joel Kurth
Thu, 06/20/2019 - 1:56pm

Hey Duane: We really appreciate your thoughts and input. Just to be clear: Bridge has nothing against getting older or has disdain for those over 50. Heck. many of us here are pushing up the state's median age. But on a statewide basis, if the population is getting older on average, that means it's generally stagnant. And that doesn't portend well for the economy, tax coffers, schools or a whole host of issues.


Thu, 06/20/2019 - 10:53pm

My comment was to offer a different perspective and your comment was to tell me I am wrong. You failed the diversity of perspective test and diminish hope for Michigan’s future. You should be asking what knowledge and skills, and other traits will the Michigan’s future need rather than presuming it only needs the young, in experienced, untested, undereducated [lessons learned in the working world where the future is part of the decision process].
How many thousands [5, 10, 15, more] of dollars a year do I have to pay in taxes to be consider a contributor to the economy? Is that your only measure of anyone’s worth to our State? Again you seem to have too narrow a view of me and my peers, we have spent a life time learning to live smarter, how do you think we got this old and having a net worth that allows more discretionary income than when we were in your targeted group?
Bridge has something against us as a group, you have stereotyped us as a shorthand in your thinking, otherwise you would be asking us how can each age group contribute to the future, what value does each age group bring to Michigan’s economy. You suggest we have nothing to offer the schools, we aren’t going to be financial drain on the school as we pay the taxes, if schools didn’t use Bridge’s stereotyping they could use us in the schools to offer different perspectives on the value of education [describing how it has been valuable for a lifetime with the financial rewards], offer difference practical application of the lessons in school, describing how calculus or chemistry or physics or reading and writing are used every day, how then can make one more valuable to others. Another issue is the not for profit organizations, they use Bridge’s stereotyping with volunteers except they have added fragile, unreliable, unimaginative and yet when the over 55s start offering ideas and the effort to apply them the agencies ignore them and the idea and energy fade away. You assume too much, you fail to appreciate how the IRA works [RMD at 70.5], how lessons learned have been applied, how well-honed skills are not easily lost.
Where you/Bridge only see the numbers of demographics, I learned that the collective wisdom of the group is smarter than the single individual, that the diversity of perspective allows the individual to open their thinking, that it is the ideas, the creativity, the commitment of each individual that we learn from and by bring them together we build community wisdom and a future.
The test of your/Bridge’s view on the over 55 age group is whether all the effort is in denial or if it is in asking questions and listening. What was you/Bridge’s question?

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 6:26pm

David, you hit it on the head. Old is not the future but the past. As much experience the old have to offer they are still a depreciating asset. Youth is the future.

David Andrews
Thu, 06/20/2019 - 1:15pm

Since about 2003-2004, the percentage of the workforce over 55 has exceeded the workforce of 16-24 year olds (see the graph at bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/article/older-workers.htm). Us older people are pulling our own weight and the weight of the 16-24 year olds. Today, the percentage of the workforce for 55+ is twice that of 16-24 year olds. employment percentage peaked for 16-24 year olds in 1978 and has declined year by year since. This represent the real problem for Michigan and the Nation - lower revenues for SSA and for government, higher welfare costs . Meanwhile, since about 1993, older employment have increased year over year. It is the over 55 group that is funding Social Security and all government programs.

We, baby boomers and older, as we have since we were 12, have stepped into the fray and stood up for our country - serving in the Army, Navy, AirForce, Marines, and CoastGuard, through four wars; working when we had a job and finding another job as soon as we could if we didn't have one. To us, food stamps and long term welfare was unacceptable and unamerican. And we are leading the way again. Look at the graph - it is ONLY the 55+ group that is getting up and going to work in increasing numbers.

Yet, the bridge says we are the problem! Shall we hear cries soon to "finally solve" the problems with seniors?

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 4:10pm

This comment was satire, correct? "Us older people are pulling our own weight and the weight of the 16-24 year olds." Okay. Don't call us next time you need help sending an email, converting a Word document to PDF or calling into a WebEx meeting...
Also, what baby boomers were serving in the Armed Forces at age 12?

David Andrews
Thu, 06/20/2019 - 8:44pm

When I was 12, I had a job, as did most of my friends. I have no idea what those young whipper-snapper Boomers were doing
Today, the percentage of 55+ people working is twice the percentage of 16-24 year olds. We are pulling our own weight. I dare say we have less trouble communicating through email today than you would with only a Campbell soup can. I wonder if you ever have been to a real meeting before 10AM.

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 8:29am

So...you weren't serving in the armed forces at age 12, nor were any of your friends, like you had stated in your initial comment. Got it.

John Q. Public
Fri, 06/21/2019 - 9:34pm

"Okay. Don't call us next time you need help sending an email, converting a Word document to PDF or calling into a WebEx meeting..."

This comment was satire, correct? You really think the average baby boomer has a problem clicking a mouse or dialing a phone, which is all the talent any of those items takes?

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 2:11pm

Many of them seem to have an issue with distinguishing truth from obvious fiction and breaking with longheld bigotries

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 1:12pm

Oh puhleez! I don't need your help sending an email, converting Word to PDF, etc. I work circles around my younger co-workers in their 20s and 30s. I have been working with computers and technology before you were even a glimmer in your daddy's eye. So don't worry, I won't be calling you any time soon.

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 12:28pm

Have you considered that the reason older people have to work longer is that few people get a pension any more and the 401K experiment has been a failure? Most people have to work until age 65 they and eligible for Medicare just to keep some sort of health insurance.

David Andrews
Wed, 06/26/2019 - 9:20pm

I have a couple moderate pensions, and my wife has a legitimate 401K that she will not have to use until she is 75-80

At 74, I work because I want to.

I have had a computer in my house for 40 years - It would be interesting to see today's youth deal with Compuserve and AOL on a 300 Baud modem! I created my first webpage using HTML 1. and wrote programs in basic when you had to write your own procedures and type everything on keyboard and run it on a text screen.

And yes, We were serving our country when I was 12 - maybe not in the Military until my 18th birthday, but serving, just the same. Raising the flag at local football games, AAA Crossing guards - we didn't have adults as crossing guards at that time - being environmental stewards (Before Rachel Carlson's Silent Spring!) and many other ways.

How are you serving your country, little boy?

Nancy, the reason most people do not have an adequate pension today is because they had houses beyond their means, and flashy cars, and fancy vacations. Everything people have bought since the 70s has been bought on credit - automatically adding 10-20% to the cost. What I am saying is that it is people's choice to not have adequate retirement funds.

Cathy Johnson
Thu, 06/20/2019 - 1:30pm

Everytime I come back to Michigan to visit my family, I see the aging and lack of forward motion in the communities. But there is very little for young people in those communities unless they want to care for elderly or work in health care. Stores closing up, very little new businesses opening. There used to be lively happenings. Lots of great concerts in the communities, places to hang out with their friends, New things happening all the time. You need the young people to keep you young when you are aging. I urge my kids to leave and go somewhere more vibrant every time I wander back. I see the stress. Not just in them , but in any interactions with the locals. Michigan is a dying state with little to no good jobs available, no impetus to allow younger entrepreneurs to start a business (unless it deals with helping seniors) and no plans to do anything but tax people to death. I confess I am curious as to how many people 65 and younger left because of the pension tax that Michigan imposed. It was one of my main reasons for leaving the state.

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 2:31pm

Here is a research study that tried to examine why states with less older persons are more productive.
"The authors find that a 10 percent increase in the share of the population that is age 60 and above decreases growth in GDP per capita by 5.5 percent."

Mark Hornbeck
Thu, 06/20/2019 - 4:52pm

I see you referenced AARP in the lead, but did not contact us for this story. If you had, we might have said something like this: People over 50 contribute to the economy in a positive, outsize proportion to their share of the population. According to a 2016 Oxford Economics study on the Longevity Economy, despite being less than 40% of the population, the total economic contribution of the Longevity Economy accounted for 47% of Michigan Gross Domestic Product. This supported 52% of Michigan’s jobs, 45% of employee compensation, and 49% of state taxes.
It's no secret that older adults spend a greater percentage of their total income and they spend it locally. The $200 billion-plus impact of the Longevity Economy was driven by $154 billion in consumer spending by over-50 households in Michigan, or 57% of total comparable consumer spending.
Due to quantum leaps in health care, people are staying healthier longer than ever before. An increasing number of older adults are family caregivers, and are raising grandchildren.
Older adults are remaining in the workplace past traditional retirement age in record numbers. Many are innovative entrepreneurs who are contributing to the state economy in dollar amounts that outpace their percentage of the population.
There's no question that a well-stocked farm club of younger families and employees is critically important to the Michigan's future. But the story about the state's aging demographics is far from all bad news.

E Elster
Thu, 06/20/2019 - 5:45pm

And let's not forget the inventive new ways to discriminate against older workers. I recently had to take a "personality profile" on indeed.com which asked me if I liked a noisy environment or preferred quiet, wanted to be the center of attention and other inane/loaded questions. This obviously to appeal to younger workers who have fooled employers into thinking that being loud and conversing with coworkers all day is actually productive. What a hoot!
An excellent work ethic is frowned on and if you exhibit one you can expect to be hazed out of your employment by whatever means your coworkers can devise. They speak of productivity? Really? I was hazed out of my last two jobs because I was productive.

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 5:25pm

How much of this can be traced to the economic dislocation Michigan experienced from 1990s? through 2010? We lost a lot of fairly prosperous upwardly mobile families (I'd bet with higher numbers of kids), the echo from this hangs around for some time. This is made even worse by the more recent birthrate collapse. If you cut out the UP, a LT demographic disaster area, how much does that change the picture?

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 7:19am

Isn't this just a reality of the baby boom who are now between 58 and 68 years old. Go look up a graph of the demographic. It's a massive hump. Why is it so unusual to think they're not going to die off at 55, just so the population looks younger? Also, define young. If you are young, you don't have a realistic reference to how the aged have become much more vital in comparison to even one generation before. I've said this for many many years, that the baby boomers lead and shape the immediacy of the economy. We are the ones that drive prices higher because of such increased demand. We are the true driver of GDS (Gross Domestic Spending)

middle of the mit
Sat, 06/22/2019 - 1:25am

I know, all the city dwellers will tell me why MY area of the State is faltering.

But do they really know?

All the olds from downstate come up here to retire. All the news from up here go down state or move out of state to get and education and move somewhere where they can make mammon. And since we have made Michigan into a work for less state, they aren't staying in state. And if you think that non union wages bring more business? When are you going to move your business to Kansas or Mississippi? Never?

That's what The Dow Jones, the Nasdaq and the S&P and the Chicago mercantile exchanges decided NOT to do.

Why? Wouldn't they ALL have received MASSIVE tax breaks?

Northern MI is what it is. If you like fishing and hunting and outdoors, it is for you. If you prefer a more eclectic life, up north is not for you. But we have low taxes and not much infrastructure. Why? We don't want to be taxed for it and we can't pay for it!


John Q. Public
Sat, 06/22/2019 - 1:19pm

Blame me. I encouraged my children to leave Michigan, and they did. This is no place for people with intelligence and ambition to start a life.

It takes taxes from everyone to build the infrastructure of society, and people here don't want to pay them. You can hardly blame them, though; our politicians don't require taxation commensurate with demand for services from every segment of society, and don't spend the taxes they do get on services for the public. They do stuff like tear down a stadium, build a new one in the same city, and call it "economic growth."

In a couple more years, my wife and I will do our part to help Michigan lower its average age.

Sun, 11/24/2019 - 6:06pm

This is the best response to this story that I have seen. If Michigan wants to have an economy and cultural environment that is moving forward, it need to be more forward-looking with its ideas. Yet here we are: a low-tax state with some of the most expensive university tuition in the country, no regional transportation in the state’s most populous region, little innovation to solve the state’s environmental challenges, etc.

Barry Visel
Sun, 11/24/2019 - 10:02pm

Hey Bridge, maybe you should ask the MEDC what they’re doing to spread economic opportunity throughout our State so more counties can benefit.

Charles P Tommasulo
Mon, 02/24/2020 - 11:34am

The solution to this problem is IMMIGRATION we need more young people who have a work ethic and an entrepreneur vision. Many immigrants, posses those valuable commodities, which are needed in those counties that are aging and eventually will disappear without a younger population. The stumbling bloc it seems is "people of color" the new immigrants. A lesson can be learned by reading the history of the 1890s and beyond of the unwanted from southern Europe (not white enough).