Special Report

The Worst States to Grow Old In

The Worst States to Grow Old In

10. South Carolina
> Median household income (65+): $35,042 (14th lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 37.2% (18th highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 22.9% (23rd lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 494.8 per 100,000 residents (6th highest)

Based on a range of factors, including income, health, labor, and environmental indicators, South Carolina is the 10th worst state in which to grow old. Older Americans are often targets of scams, financial crimes, and violence. With nearly 500 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people in the state in 2013 — one of the highest rates — South Carolina is not especially safe. Based on a recent Gallup poll, just 63% of all state residents felt safe walking alone at night, the lowest percentage nationwide. As in most of the worst states in which to grow old, South Carolina’s elderly population is also poor relative to elderly populations in other states. More than one in 10 residents 65 and older lived in poverty in 2013, one of the highest rates.

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9. Kentucky
> Median household income (65+): $32,964 (5th lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 42.0% (5th highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 16.7% (2nd lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 198.8 per 100,000 residents (5th lowest)

Less than 17% of Kentucky’s elderly population had at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, the second worst rate nationwide. Perhaps as a result, older Kentuckians have relatively poor income security. Older households had a median income of less than $33,000 in 2013, one of the lowest figures in the country. The vast majority of seniors received social security benefits. In addition, 48.5% of older residents had other forms of retirement income, larger than the comparable national figure of 47.9%. However, these supplemental incomes were not enough to keep 11.2% of Kentucky’s elderly population out of poverty, one of the highest poverty rates among state elderly populations.

8. Alabama
> Median household income (65+): $33,469 (6th lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 41.4% (8th highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 19.6% (12th lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 418.1 per 100,000 residents (14th highest)

At 75.4 years, Alabama’s life expectancy at birth in 2011 was lower than that of all but two states. Low life expectancy may result from not eating healthy foods. In 2011, 11.2% of senior citizens in the state did not have easy access to nutritious foods, the fifth highest share in the country. The high degree of food insecurity may also be related to low incomes. The poverty rate of state residents 65 and over was 10.6% in 2013, and the median household income of the same age group was less than $34,000 that year — both among the worst levels in the country. Additionally, more than 41% of Alabama’s elderly residents were disabled in 2013, well above the national figure of 36.4%.