Meet our Director
Dr. Sandi Rosenbloom
Research Professor (Affiliated);
School of Architecture
The University of Texas at Austin
The population of the United States is aging rapidly. The Lab for Safe and Healthy Aging, in the UT Austin Center for Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions (CM2), is dedicated to addressing the transportation challenges and opportunities created by the rapid demographic changes taking place in megaregions around the US with a focus on the Texas Triangle, a megaregion encompassing five cities in the heart of the state. These cities—Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio—are among the fastest growing communities in the United States and together are the home of 66% of all seniors in the state, or slightly more than two million people age 65 and over.
In 2018 the US Census Bureau noted that “The 2030’s are projected to be a transformative decade…the U.S. population [is] expected to grow at a slower pace, age considerably, and become more racially and ethnically diverse.” The profound changes in the composition of the US population are striking; the growth of those over 65 will be so rapid in the next 10 – 20 years that seniors will outnumber children for the first time in American history. Recent US Census data show that in 2020 there were over 42 million people 65 or older in the US (six million of whom were more than 85 years old), and they accounted for just under 16% of the population. The US Census projects, however, that as early as 2040 more than one in four US residents will be 65+.
Texas is the home of a very large absolute number of seniors, the third largest senior population in the nation. Texas is a “younger” state than the nation as a whole but with a substantial population of seniors, as well as those currently 45 – 64, who will likely “age in place” in their largely suburban homes within the state. In 2020 Texas had 3.3 million residents 65 and older, second only to California and Florida, even though only 12.6 % of the population was over 65. Continuing in-migration to Texas of younger people may keep the share of seniors in the population below the US average but the absolute number of seniors will continue to grow substantially.
Nationally roughly 75% of seniors live in suburban or low density places, a trend that has only intensified over the decades, as people age in place. This phenomenon is even more pronounced in Texas; US Census data show that the number of seniors in the four large metropolitan areas in the Texas Triangle grew an average of 95.4% from 2000 to 2018—with most of that growth outside the six principal cities and thus in the lowest density areas of the region. These seniors live in suburban or rural neighborhoods that often lack adequate pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and public transit services. Texas seniors have to drive to meet most of their needs and are often unable to safely walk or cycle in their own neighborhoods for physical activity or socializing. Texas seniors, not surprisingly, are generally more likely to have driver licenses than their counterparts nationally but walk or take public transit substantially less often than their national counterparts. Thus Texas seniors who lose the ability or willingness to drive have few options to meet their mobility needs.
The Lab for Safe and Healthy Aging is dedicated to monitoring important demographic trends that surround aging in the Texas Triangle, the State of Texas, and other megaregions in the United States. The Lab actively evaluates the role of multiple transportation options and providers in meeting the growing and changing needs of today’s seniors, and assesses potential solutions to the mobility and accessibility barriers that older people face in the largely low density and suburban areas in which most Texans will age in place. The Lab periodically convenes researchers, policy analysts, key stakeholders, and law makers in workshops and symposia to provide elevation on key transportation issues. The Lab will continue to work with low-income and disadvantaged communities, in conjunction with courses and practicums in the Graduate Program in Community and Regional Planning, to understand and address important aging policy issues affecting different communities, determining appropriate mobility and accessibility solutions for the growing and diverse senior population of the megaregion, state, and nation.
We will publish Policy Briefs on important aging issues from time to time on our website. Please check those currently on the website and those that we’ll publish in the future.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2018) Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History. www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases-2018/cb-18-41-population-projections.html