Special Report

The Best (and Worst) States to Grow Old

31. North Carolina
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
14.7% (24th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.7% (14th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 23.2% (21st lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.4 years (13th lowest)

By many economic, health, and environmental measures, North Carolina is about as habitable to seniors as the rest of the country. The 16% of seniors who live in poverty when factors such as out-of-pocket medical expenses, clothing, food, and other basic necessities are taken into account is just slightly higher than the 15% national supplemental poverty rate. Health outcomes for the elderly are also similar, as 37.1% of seniors have a disability, a slightly larger share than the 36.0% national percentage.

32. Michigan
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
15.4% (17th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.1% (19th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 21.8% (17th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.8 years (15th lowest)

When food, clothing, out-of-pocket medical expenses and other basic necessities are taken into account, just one in 10 Michigan seniors lives below the poverty line, the fifth lowest supplemental poverty rate in the country. Responsible retirement planning may help keep Michigan’s elderly financially afloat as the state is home to the second highest share of senior households receiving retirement income. Similarly, 93% of senior households receive Social Security income, the fifth highest share. Relative wealth among senior residents has not led to similarly strong health outcomes, however. Life expectancy is 77.8 years in Michigan, one of the shorter life expectancies in the country. Also, 36.1% of seniors have a disability, in line with the national share.

33. Pennsylvania
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
16.7% (5th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.1% (19th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 20.2% (10th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.3 years (23rd lowest)

Senior citizens make up 16.7% of Pennsylvania’s population, the fifth highest share in the country. While such a high share can imply positive factors for elderly residents in the state, it can also mean a greater burden on the working-age population and can strain funding retirement and disability pensions. For every 100 working-age Pennsylvanians, there are 27 senior citizens, the fifth highest old-age dependency ratio nationwide. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania’s seniors fare about as well as those in the rest of the country. Nearly 35% of seniors have a disability, just slightly better than the 36.0% national share. Similarly, the state has 2.3 hospitals for every 100,000 residents, roughly equivalent to the 2.2 hospitals for every 100,000 Americans across the country.

34. Florida
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
19.1% (the highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 10.5% (11th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 25.6% (24th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years (19th highest)

Slightly more than 19% of Florida’s population is over the age of 64, the largest share of any state in the country. Though many senior citizens with means choose Florida as a place to retire because of its warm climate and low taxes, elderly residents in the Sunshine State lag behind their peers in much of the rest of the country by many measures. Only 44.1% of households with residents 65 and older receive retirement income from sources other than Social Security, such as 401(k)s and pension plans. Nationwide, 48.1% of seniors receive income from such sources. Also, likely due to high rent prices, many seniors in Florida may not be living within their means. Approximately 59% of those 65 and older spend 30% or more of their income on rent, one of the highest shares in the country. Also, while the share of Florida seniors living in poverty is roughly similar to the national old-age poverty rate, when adjusted for the high costs of housing and other basic needs in the state, the poverty rate is second highest in the country.

35. Georgia
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
12.4% (4th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 10.4% (12th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 23.2% (21st lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.9 years (10th lowest)

While old age and poor health are not synonymous, the elderly tend to need more frequent medical attention than younger age segments. In Georgia, 28.5% of adults do not have their own doctor, one of the highest shares in the country. Inadequate and irregular doctor visits may partially explain the relatively low life expectancy among state residents. Life expectancy at birth in the Peach State is just under 77 years, among the lowest in the nation.

Median income among Georgia’s older residents is below the corresponding national figure. The typical income among households in the states with residents 65 and older is only $36,859, well below the national median income for elderly households.

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