How old are most people in Austin?
Theresa Carroll moved to Austin with her husband two years ago from the Midwest, looking for somewhere to retire. Straightaway, Carroll noticed a lack of older people in the city.
"Is Austin hiding their elderly somewhere?" she wondered. "Because I don’t see them at all.”
So she asked KUT's ATXplained project what the average age in Austin is and where older people go.
Austin’s city demographer, Lila Valencia, says the median age — demographers use this instead of average — is 34.4. That means Austin’s population is considered aging.
“This is not something specific to Austin, but it’s a global phenomenon,” she said. “Technological advances and better and improved quality of life for lots of people has helped us to grow to older ages.”
In fact, Austin is one of the youngest cities in the country, she said.
That’s in large part because of the universities in the area and the growth of the tech industry.
“Migration in Austin is going to be related mostly to the workforce,” Valencia said, “so they’re going to be between 24-40 years, and so that tends to help keep the population young.”
There is one key age group that’s disappearing in Austin: children.
“The child population in Austin is growing, but it's not growing like it is in other Texas cities,” Valencia said. “A lot of that has to do with the fact that a lot of populations of color typically drive the growth in the young population”
Families of color tend to have larger families and more children, she said, but many of these families are moving out of Austin because they can’t afford to live here.
“In Austin, we actually lost Latino and African American children between 2010 and 2020,” she said. “We age as a result.”
Affordability and accessibility for seniors
The issue of affordability is not exclusive to the young.
Sterling Shepphard, who has lived in Austin for 60 years, said he’s noticed the prices of homes rise, making it increasingly difficult for seniors to live here.
“People paying $2,500-a-month mortgage, you know, seniors can’t afford that,” Shepphard said. “And some was fortunate enough to save their money, work a nice job, retire … but those that didn’t, they're having a rough time.”
Shepphard said he thinks affordability disproportionately affects older communities of color in Austin. He said he’s seen fewer and fewer Black and brown people around the city.
“Through a lot of systematic racism, you’re pushing them out,” he said. “The City of Austin has had a big part in that, instead of creating housing for senior citizens and minorities, when they do build a complex, it's for the people that have higher incomes.”
Seniors are also neglected when it comes to the city’s transportation services, Shepphard said.
“They come up with all this rail system that goes west. Nothing goes east, where a few more minorities stay. I'm sure some of the old Hispanic, old African Americans would love to ride the rail, but it's not offered in the area,” he said. “Their tax dollars go toward the same system that discriminates against them.”
West Baxter, the Austin recreation program supervisor, works for the city’s Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center in East Austin. He said mobility is a common complaint from seniors who rely on the bus for transportation.
“We have a few people who are from the South Austin area who want to come and play pool or want to do a few of our programs,” he said. “They tell me that they've had a two-hour ride to get to our center because it hits so many bus stops.”
Carroll, who lives in North Austin, said the public transportation near her has been consistently unreliable.
“I just mainly drive because I don't know the bus system at all … I've not seen a bus out by me anyway,” Carroll said. “There is a train that comes in but, again, it doesn't run all the time.”
Finding an older community
Carroll, who is in her 50s, said finding a community around her age has been difficult.
“I don't know if it's just me… I don't have a community,” she said. “I don't have people my age that I can talk to because everybody's, you know, in their 30s and 40s.”
But Austin residents can expect more older people in the coming years, Valencia said.
“Once we get to 2030, all baby boomers will be in that 65 and older category,” she said. “So they will really help to, you know, push up the median age of the population.”
Austin has tried to accommodate the older population, Baxter said.
“Every year, I see really cool new, innovative programs … and people wanting to get involved,” he said.
But Carroll said she thinks the City of Austin is not doing enough to support older residents, so she and her husband will be moving back to the Midwest soon.
“I want to go back [to] someplace that I can still work and play and have a place in the landscape in which I live, and I just don't feel that here,” she said. “But Austin itself is a very vibrant place to be and it can be fun if you have the money to take part in all of that fun.”