Number of Nursing Homes and the Elderly Population

Updated: Mar 30

Number of Nursing Homes and the Elderly Population

The growth rate of the elderly population in the US, consisting of individuals aged 65 and older, will dramatically increase to almost double the country’s current growth rate in the next 20 years. This article compares the number of nursing facilities in the United States and the size of its elderly population. We will also discuss the average American’s future needs for nursing home care.

Nursing Home and Elderly Population Data

Before looking at the data one might assume that the more people there are in a population, the more likely there will be more nursing homes to meet a possible increase in demand. According to the Institute of Medicine (US) Food Forum, 4.5 percent of Americans live in nursing homes and 2 percent live in assisted living facilities. The following table compares the number of nursing homes in each state in the United States in 2021. This plot was constructed from nursing home data collected in 2021. It does not come as a surprise that Texas and California have the most nursing homes since they have the highest overall population compared to other states. But what if we focused specifically on the size of the elderly population?

The following bar plot was created from a dataset provided by the United States Census Bureau, Single Year of Age and Sex Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019. Populations of those ages 65 and older in 2019 were extracted from the data and grouped by state.

Although Texas may have more nursing homes, California comes first for the largest senior population. Although Ohio may be third in line for the most nursing homes by state, Ohio has the seventh largest senior population. Similar results follow for other states, and it’s clear that unless the states with fewer nursing homes have larger capacity or less of their senior population resides in nursing facilities, their elderly are at a disadvantage insofar as they have fewer long term care options.

The next graph was produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation (CASPER) and shows the number of elderly individuals that reside in certified nursing facilities, grouped by state. California and Texas have the most nursing homes and the most residents living in certified nursing facilities.

On the other hand, New York and Pennsylvania are next in line for having the most residents but are in sixth and seventh place for the most nursing homes.

We have only looked at the 65 and older population, but findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that 56 percent of those between the ages of 56 and 61 will stay in a nursing home at least once in their lifetime. An article from the RAND Corporation claims that only a third of those in this age group will spend their own money to cover long term care. The projected increase of the US senior population growth rate will most likely increase the demand for Medicaid and Medicare coverage. If this becomes a reality, policymakers will have to consider making changes to government healthcare.

By Beatrice Ling