Special Report

The Worst States to Grow Old In

4. Arkansas
> Median household income (65+): $31,959 (4th lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 42.4% (4th highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 16.8% (3rd lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 445.7 per 100,000 residents (10th highest)

More than 94% of elderly Arkansas residents received social security benefits in 2013, the highest rate among all states. Yet, this income frequently did not meet the financial needs of many older Arkansans, as nearly 13% did not have adequate access to nutritious and affordable food in 2011, the highest rate in the nation. While it is often expected that Americans entering retirement have savings of some kind, just 41.5% of the age group in the state had any retirement income to supplement social security, nearly the lowest figure. As a result, the state had among the higher poverty rates among its elderly population, at 10.5%. In addition, older state residents had low educational attainment rates. Less than 17% had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013, the third lowest rate nationally.

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3. West Virginia
> Median household income (65+): $31,542 (3rd lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 45.5% (the highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 14.2% (the lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 289.7 per 100,000 residents (23rd lowest)

Just over 14% of West Virginia’s elderly population had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013, 10 percentage points below the national figure and the lowest in the country. Poor educational outcomes often lead to low incomes. Among the state’s senior citizens, a typical household earned $31,542 in 2013, the third lowest figure in the country. Additionally, West Virginia’s elderlies were the most likely in the country to have some kind of disability in 2013, with nearly half indicating they were disabled. Low incomes and a high share of disabled residents may prohibit some older residents from taking advantage of services. According to a 2013 OECD report, services in West Virginia were less accessible than all but a few other states.

2. Louisiana
> Median household income (65+): $31,230 (2nd lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 41.7% (7th highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 18.8% (8th lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 510.4 per 100,000 residents (5th highest)

Older Louisiana residents are among the nation’s most financially insecure. A typical household with older occupants had an income of $31,230 in 2013, second only to Mississippi. Compared to seniors in other states, seniors in Louisiana were also some of the least likely to receive social security benefits or other forms of retirement income. Perhaps as a result, nearly 13% of the age group in the state lived in poverty in 2013, the second highest rate in the country. Older Louisiana residents also fared poorly in terms of health. For example, life expectancy at birth was less than 76 years as of 2011, one of the lowest figures. A 2013 assessment of city infrastructure design found that policies implemented in Louisiana in recent years better considered the needs of elderly people and others requiring greater access than most states, which bodes well for the state’s future elderly populations.

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1. Mississippi
> Median household income (65+): $29,511 (the lowest)
> Pct. with a disability (65+): 45.1% (2nd highest)
> Pct. with a bachelor’s degree or higher (65+): 18.2% (6th lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 267.4 per 100,000 residents (18th lowest)

Mississippi’s older population fares poorly based on a wide range of measures, making it the worst state in the nation in which to grow old. Mississippi’s elderly population had by many measures the worst income security nationwide. The median income among elderly households was less than $30,000 in 2013, the lowest in the country. Nearly 15% of residents 65 and older lived in poverty that year, also the worst rate. Perhaps as a result of financial burdens, elderly residents had worse health outcomes. More than 45% had a disability, the second highest rate in the country. In addition, accessibility to services in Mississippi was rated worse than in any other state by the OECD.