Special Report

The Best States to Grow Old In

4. Vermont
> Median household income (65+): $35,844 (20th lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 34.2% (13th lowest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 32.7% (2nd highest)
> Violent crime rate: 114.9 per 100,000 residents (the lowest)

Senior citizens living in Vermont were especially well-educated, which likely helped improve their quality of life. While less than one-quarter of Americans 65 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree, nearly one-third of elderly Vermonters were college educated, the second highest rate nationwide. Unlike in many of the best states to grow old, older Vermont residents did not have especially strong income security. The median income among older households was less than $36,000 in 2013, one of the lower rates. However, less than 5% had inadequate access to food, the fourth lowest rate in the country. Vermont also had the lowest violent crime rate in the nation in 2013, with fewer than 115 crimes reported per 100,000 residents. Safety is especially important for older people, as they are often targeted by criminals.

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3. Hawaii
> Median household income (65+): $55,650 (the highest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 35.6% (25th lowest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 26.0% (17th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 245.3 per 100,000 residents (13th lowest)

With the state’s 65 and older population accounting for nearly 16% of the overall population in 2013 — one of the higher proportions — Hawaii is a popular destination for older Americans. Older Hawaiians benefit from an exceptionally strong state health care system. Hawaii was the first state to introduce a near-universal health care system, passing legislation in 1976, which seems to have paid off. Hawaii led the nation in health on a recent OECD survey, and state residents were expected to live 81.3 years in 2011, the highest life expectancy at birth nationwide. Hawaii’s elderly population also had strong income security, with a median income for older households of nearly $57,000, the highest such figure nationwide. The relatively high incomes likely helped seniors in the state afford Hawaii’s exceptionally high cost of living.

2. New Hampshire
> Median household income (65+): $42,406 (11th highest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 34.6% (16th lowest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 28.6% (10th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 199.6 per 100,000 residents (6th lowest)

Relatively few senior citizens live in poverty in the best states for older residents. Only 5.6% of New Hampshire’s elderly population lived below the poverty line in 2013, the lowest rate of any state except for Alaska. Low poverty rates and high median household incomes among residents 65 and over may allow them better access to safe and nutritious food. As of 2011, roughly 5% of New Hampshire’s senior population did not have access to healthy foods, lower than the vast majority of states. Perhaps as a result, life expectancy at birth as of 2011 was one of the highest in the country at 80.3 years. The state was also one of the safest in the country, according to both an OECD report and FBI data, which likely makes it more attractive to older people who may be more vulnerable targets of crimes.

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1. Utah
> Median household income (65+): $44,384 (6th highest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 36.0% (24th highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 30.9% (3rd highest)
> Violent crime rate: 209.2 per 100,000 residents (8th lowest)

Although the share of its elderly population is nearly the lowest in the country, Utah is nonetheless the best state in the nation in which to grow old. The state fared exceedingly well in all the measures reviewed. Older residents are well-educated, with nearly 31% having attained at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, the third highest figure in the country. Seniors also have relatively strong income security, due in part to a strong education and traditionally high employment rates among the 55-64 age group. Nearly 97% of Utah residents in that age group were employed in 2013, nearly the highest rate. Utah’s elderly households also had a median income of more than $44,000 in 2013, higher than in all but a handful of states. These factors likely helped improve the overall satisfaction — not just among the elderly but all residents. More than 91% of residents told Gallup they were satisfied with their city in 2013, the second-highest such rate reviewed.