The Best and Worst States to Grow Old

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Indianapolis, Indiana
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41. Indiana
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 14.6% (14th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.2% (11th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 18.8% (4th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.3 years (10th lowest)

Based on disability and mortality rates, Indiana’s older population is not especially healthy compared with other states’ elderly populations. The percentage of elderly adults who report a disability, at 37.8%, is 12th highest in the country. In a given year, there are 4,829 deaths for every 100,000 people 65 and over in the state, the fifth highest mortality rate of all states.

With older Americans often at greater risk of financial instability, employment can help with the financial hardship many may face. Education, in addition to offering a myriad of personal benefits, can improve the odds of employment for older job seekers. In Indiana, however, just 18.8% of seniors have a college degree, nearly the lowest percentage.

Overlooking Prince William Sound, Alaska
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42. Alaska
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 9.6% (the lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 4.5% (the lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 30.1% (9th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 years (23rd lowest)

Living in a safe environment is especially important for senior citizens, who are more vulnerable to violent crime than younger age groups. Alaska, however, has the highest violent crime rate in the country, at 730 incidents per 100,000 people annually. Seniors are also more at risk of suffering from a debilitating mental or physical disability. In Alaska, nearly 40% of state residents 65 and older have a disability, compared to a national share of 35.4% and one of the highest shares among states.

One positive aspect for state seniors is finances. Alaska’s seniors are more likely than most to be financially secure in retirement. In addition to Social Security, 56.8% of seniors receive some form of retirement-related income, including pensions, 401ks and IRAs, more than in all but two other states.

Sun rise over Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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43. Oklahoma
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 14.7% (20th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.4% (24th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 22.6% (15th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.8 years (5th lowest)

Oklahoma’s elderly residents are more likely to be in poor health than those in other states. Life expectancy at birth is just 75.8 years, 3.1 years less than the U.S. life expectancy. Older people are more at risk of suffering from a disability that can drastically reduce their quality of life. More than 41% of state seniors suffer from a mental or physical disability, one of the largest such percentages.

Oklahoma’s seniors who who no longer drive may also be more likely to lose their independence as a result. Only 2.1% of workers in the state walk or use public transportation to get to work, the fourth lowest proportion in the country. This may point to the fact that being able to drive is crucial for mobility in the state.

City of Kingsport, Tennessee At Night
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44. Tennessee
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.4% (24th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.8% (12th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 20.5% (10th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.4 years (8th lowest)

With a large share of elderly Americans living on a fixed income, there is risk for serious financial hardship if savings run out. In Tennessee, the median income for elderly households is $36,692 a year, one of the lowest such figures in the country and well below the national median household income for the age group of $40,971 a year.

Tennessee seniors are also more likely to suffer from poor health than those in other states. Nearly 40% of seniors also suffer from a disability, close to 5 percentage points more than the national share.

Louisville at dusk, Kentucky
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45. Kentucky
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.2% (25th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 11.2% (3rd highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 18.6% (3rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.8 years (6th lowest)

Unlike most states at the bottom of this list, Kentucky’s violent crime rate of 219 incidents per 100,000 people is below the national rate and one of the lowest of all states. But while the state’s elderly are more likely to benefit from peace of mind and at lower risk of violence, there are plenty of other indications that seniors in Kentucky are worse off than the elderly populations of other states. Older Kentuckians report quite low education levels and incomes — just 18.6% have a college degree, and the typical elderly household has an annual income of $34,909. Also, based on the mortality rate of people 65 and older in the state, older state residents are not especially healthy. There are 4,845 deaths per 100,000 people 65 and over in a year, the fourth highest rate.