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Women still live longer, but men are closing the gap

Men are catching up with women in the longevity sweepstakes, according to a new analysis of census data, which show that the U.S. is the oldest it's ever been.

The population of Americans ages 65 and older increased by 15.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, far outpacing population growth as a whole, at 9.7 percent, according to the data, which were released this week.

One of every 7.6 Americans, or 13 percent, is now in that group, the highest ratio the census has recorded since it began collecting age data in 1790.

While men and women alike are living longer, men are closing the gap in the historical lead women have had. Twenty years ago, there were 83 men for every 100 women ages 65 and older; now there are 90.5 men.

Read the entire census report (.pdf)

Carrie Werner, the statistician who compiled the analysis, said the data "will provide some unique challenges for the data users."

Your odds of reaching 90 keep getting better

They're more like a "whack over the head with a 2-by-4," said Paul Downey, president and chief executive of Senior Community Centers, which offers senior services to low-income residents in the San Diego area.

"This should be a wake-up call for our elected officials to start focusing on aging policy now," Downey told NBCSanDiego.com. "Otherwise, we'll be dealing with it in crisis mode."

Downey said the numbers raise a red flag for the solvency of Social Security solvency, which he said will rely on a smaller proportion of the population to provide funds for a growing population of seniors.

"We risk people falling through the cracks," Downey said. "We need to acknowledge now that we are a graying nation."

Who lives where
As you might expect, given its reputation as a retirement haven, Florida is the oldest state, with 17.3 percent of its 19 million residents 65 or older, according to msnbc.com's analysis of the data, which didn't rank the states.

Aging in place: Most in U.S. want to stay put

But there are some surprises at the top of the list. For example, the cold-weather states of Maine (15.9 percent) and Pennsylvania (15.4 percent) are third and fourth, a reflection of the Northeastern U.S.'s status as the region with the highest percentage of older residents.

The 10 oldest states, with the percentage of their populations 65 and older:

1. Florida 17.3
2. West Virginia 16.0
3. Maine 15.9
4. Pennsylvania 15.4
5. Iowa 14.9
6. Montana 14.8
7. Vermont 14.6
8. North Dakota 14.5
9. Rhode Island 14.4
Tie Arkansas 14.4
Tie Delaware 14.4

Other arthritis-friendly states popularly considered to be retiree magnets didn't crack the top of the list. Hawaii did make it to a tie for 12th, with an older population of 14.3 percent, but Arizona was all the way down in a tie for 19th (13.8 percent). 

By region:

1. Northeast 14.1
2. Midwest 13.5
3. South 13.0
4. West 11.9

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