CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – People over the age of 65 make up 20 percent of West Virginia’s population. The Oldest States in America study recently released by ranks the state 3rd in the nation for residents in the 65 and older age group and in the 65 to 74 category. 

 “It wasn’t a shock to me. I think we are all pretty aware that West Virginia does have an older population. But it is also not necessarily a negative,” said Jane Marks, President of the West Virginia AARP.  

West Virginia ranked number 2 in the country for the percent of the population in the 75 to 84 age group. 

Marks said having an older population can help the economy. 

“We are an economic driver because we are still working, we are living longer but healthier lives and we do things like pay taxes and we shop and we travel,” she said. She pointed to another recent study that showcased the impact older Americans have on the economy. 

Even though having an older population can often put added pressure on health care services in a community Marks said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

“Because if we are accessing and paying for health services that is actually driving the health industry. In West Virginia, it also is a way for us to contribute to the health system because we also have about 300,000 family caregivers, folks who are providing free care for their loved ones. That is folks that are not having to go into long term care, folks that can stay out of the hospital because they have family caregivers taking care of them,” Marks explained. 

Maine and Florida ranked above West Virginia when it came to the percent of people over 65. The study found the median age of Americans to be 38 years old.