Special Report

The Best (and Worst) States to Grow Old

Methodology

To determine the best and worst states in which to grow old, 24/7 Wall St. compiled data from a variety of sources and grouped them into four broad categories: income, health, labor, and environment and access.

To construct our index we used the min-max normalization method. A similar methodology was used in constructing HelpAge International’s Global AgeWatch Index and the United Nation’s Human Development Index. First, all indicators were modified so that higher values indicate better outcomes. For example, rather than use the percentage of the population with a disability, our index uses the percentage of people 65 and older without a disability. Second, each indicator was normalized to fall between 0 and 1 using the indicator’s minimum and maximum values. Third, we calculated the geometric mean of the indicators in each category to obtain an index value for each category. Geometric means were used to account for relationships between indicators that may be causal. Our final index was calculated as a geometric mean of the index values for each category.

Included in the income category are data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) for the 65 and older population’s retirement income, poverty rates, and median household income. The health category includes data from the Census Bureau on the percentage of noninstitutionalized people 65 and over with a disability. Also included are data on the percentage of seniors who struggle to afford food — known as the food insecurity rate — from Feeding America’s 2013 report, Spotlight on Senior Hunger.

We also included 2010 life expectancy at birth from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research center affiliated with the University of Washington, the percentage of adults who reported having a personal doctor in 2013 from the Kaiser Family Foundation, as well as the 2013 crude elderly mortality rate per 100,000 people 65 and over in each state from the CDC.

The labor category incorporates data from the ACS on the share of people 65 and over with a bachelor’s degree or higher, as well as 2014 employment rates for people aged 55-64 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The environment and access category includes 2014 violent crime rates from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report and the share of workers who walk or use public transportation from the ACS. In addition, this category includes data on the number of social establishments — restaurants, libraries, civic organizations, among others — as well as the number of hospitals in the state. Both numbers are adjusted for population.

Click here to see the best (and worst) states to grow old.

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