Eleanore Dispensa moved her family from Chicago to Orland Park about 50 years ago because she thought it would be a nice place to raise her six kids.
"It was a good place to grow up," she said, adding that an affordable house on a half-acre lot made it all the more appealing.
After five decades, the 86-year-old said she still likes the community, and according to numbers from the 2010 U.S. Census, many of her fellow senior citizens feel the same way.
Just more than 19 percent of Orland Park's 57,676 residents are 65 and older, the largest percentage of any Chicago area community with a population of 50,000 or more. Oak Lawn was next with 18 percent, and then Skokie with 17.4 percent.
While on average, the population of seniors in the region is expected to climb as the baby boomer generation grows older, Chicago demographer Rob Paral said the average age of some communities like Cicero are actually trending younger.
"So not every place is like Orland," he said.
Because census numbers also showed that about 23.6 percent of the village's population is between the ages of 50 and 64, some community officials say they are making preparations to serve an even larger senior population in coming years.
The Orland Fire Protection District, for instance, is launching a public education program this winter designed to better prepare residents to respond when someone suffers a heart attack.
Battalion Chief Raymond Kay said by teaching more people CPR and making AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, more available, residents would be able to immediately assist cardiac arrest victims while waiting for an ambulance. By launching the program now, the department is preparing for a greater number of cardiac arrest calls expected in coming years.
"Statistically, the average age of a person who experiences sudden cardiac arrest is 65 years old," Kay said. "If you take that population and you march it out over the next few years, you'll see that that age 65 and older category is growing and growing."
The fire protection district is one big reason senior Raymond Knizner likes living in Orland Park.
"They saved my life at least three times," he said, referring to different medical emergencies when he called 911. "They were there promptly to get me to the hospital."
While socializing with friends at the Orland Township's activity center last week, Knizner, 82, said friends suggested he move to Orland Park after his wife passed away and he sold their Oak Lawn home in 1991.
Orland Township Supervisor Paul O'Grady said he thinks the community's large number of townhomes and condos appeals to seniors, as well as its surplus of restaurants and shopping spots like Orland Square Mall.
"I think there's a lot for seniors to do in our area socially," he said. "And ultimately, I think people believe that Orland is a very safe neighborhood."
While many seniors do tend to move to the area after downsizing from their family homes, Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin said he thinks much of the village's current demographics is due to the timing of the village's past population boom.
The population grew rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s as families from Chicago or suburbs closer to the city moved to Orland Park, officials said, growing from just 6,391 in 1970 to 35,720 in 1990. Now a few decades later, many who moved here to raise families are still around.
"They are still here and aging while some of the kids have left," McLaughlin said.
To accommodate the changing needs of the older generations, senior housing options have also expanded in the area in recent years.