Get Ready for All the New Olds, Harris County

Chart Showing Projected Population Increases in Harris County by Age Segment, 2010-2050

A reader tells Swamplot that he thinks recent news coverage of population projections from the state demographer up until the year 2050 have missed the big story: The dramatic projected growth of the over 60 population in Harris County. Between 2010 and 2050, it’s expected to more than triple, from around 500,000 at the turn of the decade to about 1.5 million in 35 years.

To illustrate, RobertinHeights sends in the chart above, showing how increases in the older age segment will dominate others in the coming decades. “By 2040 we will have an over 60 population in Harris County that is larger than the total current population of Dallas,” he writes. “Go long property by the Medical Center.”

Chart: RobertinHeights

Demographic Graphics

17 Comment

  • Unfortunately, the way things are going in Houston and other major cities, there will be very few affordable housing options for all of these seniors: We’re too busy building huge McMansions and pricey condos/apartments that will not serve the needs of this population. I’m already seeing seniors get displaced from neighborhoods where they’ve lived for decades.

  • Here’s a better link to the senior housing study by Harvard:

  • with declining homeownership rates and smaller young population groups someone is going to get killed in property taxes to keep schools from going bankrupt once all the over-65 exemptions kick in. thank goodness us millenials will start retiring in the 40’s before it really hits the fan.

  • I wonder how valid their assumptions are. Houston is a place you go to work, not stay to retire. When I hit that age I’m going to find a nice quiet house on a lake in the woods…

  • @joel,

    Don’t worry about smaller young population groups. In the first place, in sheer numbers, there are already more Millennials than there are Baby Boomers. In the second place, most of the first-gen immigrants we see here tend to have more children than, and starting younger than, second-gen or later, and the other news reports are all about how Houston is a city of immigrants (see the Hillcroft story from earlier this week). [Note, when I say “immigrants”, I mean nothing more or less than “people who moved here from another country”.]

  • I found all this interesting until I realized that in 2040 I’ll be almost 60… then I got sad. Oh well, I guess my house near the med center will be a good base for me to grow old and wither away in.

  • @roadchick: You’re right about the lack of affordable housing in Houston for seniors. Local developers are in complete denial about the needs for this population group. This is simply a reflection of the value our society places on elders in general. Many seniors don’t want to live in a highrise or midrise apartment building or, god forbid, a golf cart community. Clusters of simple, detached 1-story 2/1 accessible houses built around a central green yard/garden space exist in cities abroad plus a few forward-thinking places in the U.S., but not here.

    @ Orang Bodoh: I hope you’re able to realize your dream of a home on a lake in the woods and live in it comfortably for many years.. I’ve had family members and friends who retired to nice homes in the country and small towns, only to move back to the city when life’s realities set in. Expert medical care, affordable help of any kind and adequate county services/law enforcement/fire protection turned out to be in short supply.

  • Yeah, I got to watch my grandparents get old and whither away and that wasn’t any fun. One of the things that I learned from it is that this theory that you’re going to work hard and accumulate savings and hit 65 and then retire and then live in an interesting place, maybe on some acreage in the countryside, and travel the world and have adventures — some people can pull it off — but for a lot of people that’s delusional. Youth IS wasted on the young. If you want to do something like that, do it sooner rather than later; and don’t worry about money, just do it and figure out the money as you go.

    In other news, the suicide rate among Baby Boomers has begun to spike. It is declining in all other segments of the population. The most popular hypothesis as to why is that they’re beginning to face health issues and their own mortality, and they don’t want to be a burden. They had lots of siblings to shoulder the burden of aging parents, but their kids don’t. I’m not sure how large of a countervailing impact that that’ll have on the larger trend, but it is of interest.


    About the housing situation. By and large, most elderly people age in place, in the neighborhoods that are familiar, near their friends, and often near extended family. However, the average new-construction home in the United States has twice the number of bedrooms as occupants in the house; its more and more common to see houses in the suburbs with “mother-in-law’s quarters”. I strongly suspect that the pattern of so many young Americans living with their parents is going to get turned on its head, and that more parents will live with their children as they age.

    The small town option will become more attractive as more people go there and health and social services and retail options are expanded. Some places are already primed for this; Brenham and Fredericksburg come to mind. There will be more.

    I also think that there’s a market for small houses, and you might see developers like Del Webb respond to it. But it still won’t be cheap. Very little that has ever been built and marketed for relatively affluent elderly people (the only ones that can afford new construction) has been affordable. The big problem is going to be dealing with poor elderly people. The cheapest option, although a politically impossible one, might be to export them to India on a voluntary basis. Its a lot easier to imagine that there will be no sweeping changes except that higher tax rates (by a variety of mechanisms, including as Joel mentioned, with school property taxes) will be imposed on those of us that remain in the workforce.

  • Go long comment section

  • I guess I’ll fit into the demographic in the 2040s. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll retire here, though. I love it here for now, but perhaps I’ll move back west where I grew up and enjoy the beaches or the Pacific NW. A lot may depend on where my children end up. I’ve noticed that families (mine included) spread out all over the country; e.g., while my parents are still back in California, their grandchildren are not. I’m sure they always imagined having their children live nearby and having the ability to see their grandchildren on a regular basis (i.e., not once or twice a year for a week or two at a time). I still have a hard time seeing my parents leave CA, but the pull to be closer to grandchildren is very strong.

  • @artfox, I bought some land in Brenham a few years ago with the thought I’d build a small home and retire there. I came to realize that I would feel isolated and bored out of my skull living in a small town where all of my neighbors have owned their land for 4+ generations and aren’t particularly friendly to city folk. I’m single so it might be different for couples, but I agree with you that many seniors prefer to remain close to their friends, doctors, and cultural activities. I knew a middle-aged couple who moved to Navasota for the “country life,” only to return to Houston within 18 months.

  • @ roadchick: About Brenham’s tightness. It’s true what you say. However, don’t forget that all of northwest Harris County had basically the same sort of tight German immigrant/farmer population up until the mid-20th century. There may be a few insular pockets that are left, but demographic change can happen very very quickly and especially as developers and non-locals come along and start waving wads of cash around. You won’t be able to recognize it by 2040 (and maybe you wouldn’t want to).

    Also, yeah, Navasota takes a certain kind of person to appreciate it and feel a part of the community.

  • I spend a lot of time in the Brenham area myself and find that (1) there’s already a huge population of Houston weekenders and retirees with places there, so you’d hardly be alone if you do such yourself and (2) there’s actually quite a number of friendly locals, as long as you spend $ at local places and don’t bring too much attitude. Yes the Germans can be tough nuts to crack, but get involved with or financially support local organizations and you’ll make friends. Oh, and the Czechs are a little less stand-offish, so it doesn’t hurt to seek them out..

  • @Roadchick: I think the Snowbirds who split time between warm and cold climates are onto something. Why not have two houses in retirement? One out in the country somewhere, where it’s peaceful (we’re looking to be on a lake) and then a small condo in the City where you can partake in the museums, concerts, and go to doctors appointments and all of that? This is out goal, my wife and me. We’ll see if it happens. I hope they don’t tear down Parc IV and Parc V before then….

  • @The Niche, @Local Planner, my land is about 7 miles away from downtown Brenham, surrounded by large dairy farms and ranches. The fella who cuts the hay on my land is very nice and seems pleased with my knowledge of basic farming techniques. But, as someone of mixed race who can pass for white, I was not comfortable with what appeared to be ingrained racism among the neighbors. They threw the N-word around pretty casually in my presence and there’s even a nasty anti-Obama billboard just up the road. It’s weird, because I bought the land from a black family who had owned it and dozens of surrounding acres for more than 100 years.

  • The increase in aging population isn’t a new concept but I think a lot of “empty nesters” could find a great balance in a condo-style complex: no lawn maintenance and predictable monthly fees while having a bit of a residential flavor to it. The kicker is having people move to these and form new friendships with the people in the complex – but it is just a fact that it is harder for people to make new friends as we all get older.
    I currently live in the medical center and work inside the Loop. My aging mom lives out in the suburbs. I’ve given some thought to selling my ITL place, buying a suburban home, and having my mom live with me so I could be close to her. We’d sell her house as part of the process. I’ve been stalling on this for slightly selfish reasons: I hate long commutes and I like living alone. Luckily, my mom is in good health for now.
    As for my own retirement plans, I like my spot here in Houston but I could see myself moving out West, too.

  • @ roadchick: Sorry to hear that. Brenham does have a sizable black community and it has a reputation for having better race relations than some of the other areas nearby; but yeah, I would not necessarily expect that they would be politely or respectfully anti-Obama or in general that they should make their case in such a manner. In general, the local folks capable of greater intellectual nuance and racial sensitivity have migrated elsewhere. I don’t mean to minimize that or to give it a free pass, but that’s just how it is. One has to have reasonable expectations, and sometimes being reasonable kind of sucks.

    @ Major Market: I used to live in the part of town that you do, also in a condo. Not sure that I agree with you about the bit of residential flavor. I never had stable neighbors the way that I did living in an older apartment in the Museum District. I can commiserate though. My in-laws are located internationally (and so am I), but they have five kids. I’m effectively an only-child. When the health issues kick in for my parents, it’s easy to imagine that I might find myself living in — of all places — Brenham. That’s where they live these days. It’s not all bad. It has a decent hospital, that’s a plus. Plenty of shopping. A community college where my mother takes art classes. It has a Spec’s Liquor, that a double-plus right there. (And apparently, it has a Local Planner that visits frequently and that apparently needs to be treated to one or two or three or more of my father’s vodka tonics. All that one has to do is ask.) One thing that it doesn’t have that I need is much faster internet and wireless service.

    Anyhow, yeah, its not difficult to imagine myself making some sacrifices on account of my parents. Like you, I know that it would suck. Like you, I know that these are sacrifices that I’ll probably make regardless. I don’t think that we’re alone.