Special Report

The Best (and Worst) States to Grow Old

36. Ohio
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
15.5% (16th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.1% (19th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 19.7% (7th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.4 years (14th lowest)

Compared to the rest of the country, Ohio is not a particularly favorable place for older Americans. About 4.8% of residents 65 and older die each year, one of the highest mortality rates in that age group. Ohio residents’ average life expectancy of 77.4 years is about a year less than the national average. Also, 35.4% of noninstitutionalized seniors have a disability, roughly equivalent to the national average. While health outcomes in the state are unremarkable, Ohio residents are more likely to have access to medical treatment. Just 19.8% of adults do not have a personal doctor compared to a 22.9% national share. Similarly, there are 5.2 nursing homes per 10,000 seniors, the ninth most per capita of any state.

37. South Carolina
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
15.8% (11th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.3% (18th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 23.9% (23rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.5 years (9th lowest)

By measures of health and wealth, South Carolina is not particularly senior-friendly. When basic necessities such as out-of-pocket medical expenses, food, and clothing are taken into account, 18% of South Carolina seniors live below the poverty line, the second highest supplemental poverty rate in the country. The life expectancy of just 76.5 years and the 37.3% of seniors who have a disability are both worse than the corresponding national averages. There are just 2.2 nursing facilities per 10,000 South Carolina seniors, one of the smallest per capita shares of any state.

However, 85% of seniors own their homes, which is the second highest share in the country. Homeownership can provide stability, financial security, and above all peace of mind that can improve quality of life in old age.

38. Missouri
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
15.4% (17th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.0% (21st highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 20.3% (13th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.2 years (11th lowest)

The median household income among Missouri’s elderly residents of $36,059 is well below the corresponding national figure of $39,186. Despite lower incomes, the elderly in Missouri are more likely to live within their means. It is not financially prudent to spend more than 30% of one’s income on rent, yet 55% of American aged 65 and older do so. In Missouri, the corresponding share is only 48%, one of the smallest of any state in the country.

Despite some positive economic measures, 11.4% of seniors in the state struggle to put food on the table, one of the largest shares in the country. Inadequate nutrition among the state’s elderly may partially explain why life expectancy in Missouri falls short of the national life expectancy by over a year.

39. Indiana
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
14.3% (17th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.0% (5th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 18.9% (4th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.2 years (12th lowest)

Compared to the rest of the country, conditions in Indiana are not particularly favorable for its elderly population. About 4.8% of residents 65 and older die every year, the fifth highest mortality rate of any state for that age group. The life expectancy in Indiana of 77.2 years is among the lowest in the country, and 37.5% of noninstitutionalized seniors have a disability — a slightly larger share than the 36.0% of disabled American seniors overall. Indiana’s elderly fare better in economic measures than in health. Despite a median household income below the national figure, just 7.0% of Indiana’s elderly live in poverty — the fifth lowest old-age poverty rate nationwide. However, when adjusted for out-of-pocket medical expenses and the costs of other basic necessities, Indiana’s supplemental poverty rate is considerably higher.

40. Alaska
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up:
9.5% (the lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 4.3% (the lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 30.4% (4th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.9 years (16th lowest)

Alaska is the only state in the country where less than 10% of the population is 65 and older. That small share of senior citizens living in the state are among the most financially stable of their age group in the country. The $58,311 median elderly household income is the highest in the country. Correspondingly, only 4.3% of Alaska’s senior citizens live in poverty, the smallest share of any state in the country.

However, Alaska lags behind much of the country in several health measures. More than a third of adults in the state do not have a personal doctor, one of the highest shares in the country. Additionally, just over 41% of the noninstitutionalized population 65 and older is living with a disability, also among the highest shares of any state.

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