Special Report

The Worst States to Grow Old In

7. New Mexico
> Median household income (65+): $35,785 (19th lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 41.9% (6th highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 27.3% (14th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 596.7 per 100,000 residents (2nd highest)

More than 27% of older New Mexico residents had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2013, the only one among the worst states for older people that exceeded the comparable national rate of 24.1%. Yet, the state’s elderly population was among the most likely to live in poverty in 2013. Nearly 12% of residents 65 and older lived in poverty, the third highest nationwide. Poor income insecurity likely contributed to similarly poor health outcomes. Nearly 42% of residents 65 and older had a disability in 2013, one of the highest rates. In addition, the OECD evaluated access to services in New Mexico worse than access in nearly every other state.

6. Tennessee
> Median household income (65+): $34,462 (9th lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 40.0% (9th highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 19.2% (9th lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 579.7 per 100,000 residents (4th highest)

In 2011, nearly 12% of Tennessee seniors did not have adequate access to nutritious and affordable food, the second-highest percentage in the nation. Low educational attainment rates likely explain in part the poor income security among older state residents. Less than 20% of Tennessee residents 65 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the lowest figures in the country. Relatively poor nutrition, as well as the low incomes, contributed to poor health outcomes among the state’s older population. As in a majority of the worst states in which to grow old, older Tennesseans were more likely to have a disability than other older Americans in general, and the life expectancy at birth in 2011 was 76.3 years, one of the lowest figures. In addition, Tennessee was not especially safe, with roughly 580 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people in 2013, the fourth highest rate among all states.

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5. Nevada
> Median household income (65+): $41,491 (13th highest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 36.2% (23rd highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 22.5% (20th lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 591.2 per 100,000 residents (3rd highest)

The collapse of Nevada’s economy as a result of the housing crisis in 2009 is likely still having an effect on the state’s residents, including its elderly population. Only 91% of Nevadans aged 55 to 64 were employed in 2013, the lowest rate in the country. Additionally, Nevada had the country’s highest rate of residents 65 and older who did not have health insurance, which may have contributed to only 66.1% of all residents having a personal doctor, the lowest rate in the country. Senior citizens in Nevada were also among the country’s least likely to have access to healthy and affordable food, with food insecurity identified among 10.4% of older residents. Food insecurity was far from Nevada residents’ only problem, as the state also had one of the highest violent crime rates in the country in 2013.

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