Special Report

The Best (and Worst) States to Grow Old

6. Montana
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
16.6% (6th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.3% (22nd lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 26.1% (19th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.3 years (24th lowest)

Nearly 17% of Montana residents are 65 and older, one of the highest shares in the country. The elderly tend to need more medical attention than the younger population and a higher concentration of medical institutions may benefit the elderly population. In Montana, there are roughly 6.6 hospitals for every 100,000 people, nearly three times the number of hospitals per capita nationwide. Social interactions are often key attributes of healthy lifestyles, and Montana has more social establishments, including churches, restaurants, and social clubs, than any other state. Seniors are likely among those benefitting from the roughly 50 social establishments for every 10,000 people, which is considerably more than the 30 social establishments for every 10,000 people in the United States.

7. Vermont
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
17.0% (4th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.1% (7th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 31.8% (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (12th highest)

Not only does an education help foster economic prosperity, but also it is a major factor in improving quality of life. In Vermont, 31.8% of elderly state residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, the third highest attainment rate among that age cohort in the nation. Vermont’s population is also relatively old. With 17% of residents aged 65 and older, the median age is 43, the second highest median age nationwide. The large share is not necessarily a strength, however. It also means that the state has fewer working-age adults to support older residents, both as members of a broader tax base and in professions supporting the elderly. For every 100 working-age Vermonters, there are 27 elderly residents, the fifth highest dependency ratio in the nation. Still, the state seems to take relatively good care of its elderly population. Perhaps due in part to the 11.6% of 65 and older residents relying on food stamps — the sixth highest percentage — less than 5% of seniors are considered food insecure, the fourth lowest share.

8. Washington
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
14.1% (13th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.4% (23rd lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 30.4% (4th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (11th highest)

Washington provides a fairly senior-friendly environment. For example, the state provides a relatively high quality transit system, which can be essential for maintaining independence in old age. Frequent use of public transit is often a reflection of quality, and one in 10 residents commutes to work by public transit or walking in Washington — the seventh highest share in the compared with other states. Washington has one of the wealthiest and more well-educated senior populations of any state, which can contribute to both economic prosperity and greater independence overall. The 30.4% of Washington residents aged 65 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher is the fourth largest such share nationwide. Also, the typical senior household in Washington earns $44,104 a year — higher than the $39,186 median household income for elderly households nationwide.

9. Virginia
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
13.8% (10th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.8% (14th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 28.9% (11th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (25th highest)

Virginia’s elderly residents are relatively financially stable. Of homes with elderly heads of household in the state, median income is $45,966, considerably higher than the comparable national figure of $39,186. With higher incomes, a smaller share of Virginia’s elderly households are dependent on food stamps. Only 7.2% of the Old Dominion State’s elderly households receive food stamps, less than national percentage of 9.0%. Virginia’s elderly residents are also more likely to have access to quality food. Only 3.7% of seniors struggle to afford adequate and nutritious food on a regular basis, the lowest level of food insecurity of any state’s elderly population in the country.

10. Connecticut
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
15.4% (17th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.8% (14th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 30.4% (4th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.4 years (2nd highest)

Annual incomes for those 65 and older tend to be fixed and lower than incomes of younger segments of the population. While this is also the case in Connecticut, the state’s elderly residents are less likely to face financial hardship than their peers in most other states. The median income among homes with elderly heads of household is $46,216 a year in the Nutmeg State, more than in all but three other states. Relatively high incomes are due in part to the large share of retired Connecticut residents who receive retirement income from pensions, 401(k)s, and other sources. Slightly more than half of all those 65 and older in Connecticut receive retirement income, a larger share than in the vast majority of states.

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