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Most Popular Names in Assisted Living

Ami Noss
By Ami NossMarch 18, 2015

At A Place for Mom (APFM), we work with more than 100,000 new families each month, and over the years, we’ve noticed some distinct trends in the names of seniors we’ve served. Specifically, similar names tend to pop up over and over again, with Mary being the most popular female name, and James, Robert and John dominating the male side of the charts.

This makes us wonder about names and the popularity of a name in general. Relatively speaking, how popular were the most frequently chosen names of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, compared to names of recent decades? How does gender play into naming trends? Are people with certain names more likely to enter assisted living? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular male and female names in assisted living pulled from APFM data spanning 2000 – 2014.

The Popularity of Mary Over Time

From major Biblical figures like the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene to powerful historical figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots — the name Mary has a rich heritage and many positive associations. According to the Social Security Administration, Mary is the most popular female name in its history of recorded names, which began in 1880.

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  • Between the years 1914 and 2013, over 3.6 million baby girls born in the U.S., were named Mary, accounting for over 2.1% of total female births
  • Mary is more than twice as popular as Patricia, the next most popular name for the last hundred years
  • Mary occupied the number one spot every year from 1880 to 1946, and again between 1953 and 1961
  • The name fell out of the top 100 for the first time in 2008, but even in today’s sea of Sophias, Emmas and Isabellas, it continues to rank in the low 100s

Most Popular Female Names in Assisted Living




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A Century of Popular Male Names

Even with Mary’s stunning popularity, it’s only the sixth most popular name of the overall 1914-2013 time period. This is because, on the whole, male names are less varied than female names. In the past 100 years in the U.S.:

  • 4 million baby boys were named James, John, Robert and Michael (approximately 11% of all male babies during this time period)
  • The top 10 male names were given to over 35 million, or roughly 21% of all boys, whereas the top 10 female names were given to just 15 million, or 9% of all girls

Most Popular Male Names in Assisted Living

Traditions, Values and Naming Practices

During the first half of the 20th century, nearly 80% of new babies were given a Top 200 name. Religious and family names were frequent choices, especially for boys. Loyalty, honor, virtue and conformity were prevalent values that strongly influenced naming choices.

But, the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s brought with it a change in naming practices, as parents began to favor novelty and individuality.

  • In 2013, the most popular female name, Sophia, was given to just 1.1% of baby girls, whereas the name Mary was given to 5.5% and 4.8% of baby girls in 1930 and 1940, respectively, while the name Linda was given to 4.6% of baby girls in 1950
  • The most popular boy name of 2013, Noah, was given to just 0.9% of boys, while 5.5% of baby boys born in 1930 were named Robert, while 5.3% of boys born in 1940 and 4.7% of boys born in 1950 were named James

How Names Shape Behavior

We all know people who give us strong positive or negative associations with certain names, but can names actually shape behavior?

Mark Edmond, creator of the app Nametrix, recently discovered that certain names have disproportionate representation in certain professions. For example, psychotherapists, librarians and activists are more likely than members of the general population to be named Ellen. Meanwhile Treys, Rustys and Sonnys are overrepresented in the ranks of guitarists.

Do you or a loved one have one of the most popular names in assisted living? Share a story about your name and its meaning, in the comments below.

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Ami Noss
Ami Noss
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