Turning Gray into Gold

There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history. According to a new Census Bureau report, there were 40.3 million people age 65 and older on April 1, 2010, up 5.3 percent from 35 million in 2000 (and just 3.1 million in 1900).

The 65-and-older population jumped 15.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, compared with a 9.7 percent increase for the total U.S. population. People age 65 and older now make up 13 percent of the total population, compared with 12.4 percent in 2000 and 4.1 percent in 1900.

All regions of the country have seen growth in their 65-and-older population since the 2000 Census. The older population is growing most rapidly in the West, where the number of senior citizens increased 23.5 percent, from 6.9 million in 2000 to 8.5 million in 2010. The Northeast is home to the largest percentage of people 65 years and older (14.1 percent), followed by the Midwest (13.5 percent), the South (13.0 percent), and the West (11.9 percent).

What does all this mean for the hospitality industry? Simply that there is a largely untapped market out there that is growing at a phenomenal rate. This mature market is generally willing to travel in the shoulder seasons if there is enough incentive. Since many are retired, they can travel midweek and arrange their travel plans in accordance with rooms availability. Many pay in full on departure by personal check (reducing credit-card commissions) and many are willing to give large deposits, providing a cash-flow benefit.

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