Special Report

The Best (and Worst) States to Grow Old

26. Rhode Island
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
15.8% (11th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.7% (14th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 25.4% (25th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.1 years (17th highest)

Access to medical care and social opportunities can provide stability and stimulation in old age, and ultimately improve quality of life. There are about 39 social establishments per 10,000 Rhode Island residents, the seventh most per capita in the country. Also, almost 86% of adults in Rhode Island have a personal doctor, the fourth largest share nationwide and an indication that the state’s health system is relatively strong. Rhode Island’s elderly are more likely to struggle to afford food than those in other states, however. More than one in 10 seniors in the state report food insecurity, one of the highest rates nationwide.

27. Illinois
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
13.9% (11th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.8% (23rd highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 24.2% (24th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.7 years (24th highest)

Well developed public transportation systems and walkable communities are especially important for elderly residents as driving often becomes more challenging in old age. Illinois is home to one of the most widely used public transit systems in the country.

Otherwise, by many measures, lives of seniors in Illinois are comparable to their counterparts across the country. Of Illinois homes with 65 and older householders, the annual median income of $39,898 is only slightly higher than the corresponding nationwide figure of $39,186. Similarly, at 78.7 years, life expectancy in the Prairie State is in line with the national average life expectancy.

28. Arizona
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
15.9% (10th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.4% (17th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 27.3% (16th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.3 years (15th highest)

In terms of several economic measures, Arizona’s elderly population fares about as well as older Americans in other states. The typical elderly Arizona home earns $40,195 annually, approximately $1,000 more than the corresponding nationwide figure. Similarly, Arizona’s 9.4% poverty rate among the elderly is close to the national figure. While it is not financially prudent to pay more than 30% of annual income on rent, 54.5% of Arizonans 65 and older pay at least this much on housing, just slightly below the national average proportion. Also, life expectancy in the Grand Canyon State of 79.3 years is only slightly higher than it is across the country.

29. Utah
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
10.0% (2nd lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 6.7% (4th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 30.4% (4th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.7 years (9th highest)

A good education can contribute to higher quality of life in old age. In Utah, 35.1% of seniors have attended some college and 30.4% have at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest and fourth highest shares in the country. College credentials also partially explain the high incomes in the state. Supplemented with retirement income, the median earnings for senior households in Utah of $45,738 a year is the seventh most of any state. Also, the 6.7% poverty rate among elderly state residents is the fourth lowest.

Access to golf courses, churches, restaurants and other social venues can improve quality of life for elderly individuals in particular. In Utah however, residents have access to just 20 social establishments per 10,000 residents, the lowest per capita of any state.

30. Texas
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
11.5% (3rd lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 10.9% (7th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 24.3% (25th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 years (21st lowest)

A relatively young state, the median age in Texas is 34, and only 11.5% of Texans are 65 and older, one of the smallest shares in the country. For the state’s elderly population, life is a little tougher in Texas than it is in many other states. Roughly 11% of those 65 and older are living in poverty in the Lonestar State, one of the highest shares in the country. As is the case in many states, a high poverty rate accompanies a high food insecurity rate among Texas seniors. More than one in 10 elderly residents struggle to put food on the table, one of the largest proportions of any state in the country. Seniors in the state may also be less likely to receive regular preventative medical care as roughly 33% of state adults do not have a personal doctor, a higher share than in all but two other states.

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