The Best and Worst States to Grow Old

Print Email

Golden Fiery Sunset at Grand Teton, Wyoming
Source: Thinkstock

1. Wyoming
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 14.1% (8th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.0% (24th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 27.7% (19th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (18th lowest)

Based on a range of metrics, Wyoming is the best state in which to grow old. The physical decline that comes with aging means access to nearby medical facilities is especially beneficial for elderly communities. In Wyoming, There are 4.4 hospitals for every 100,000 residents, the sixth most of all states and several times the nationwide 1.4 hospitals to 100,000 person ratio. Because elderly adults are relatively vulnerable to isolation and exclusion, the presence of social establishments such as historical sites, museums, restaurants, and religious organizations can also play a major role in quality of life for older adults. In Wyoming, there are over 40 such establishments for every 10,000 residents, sixth highest concentration of states and well above the national ratio of 30.1 venues to 10,000 person.

Montpelier, Vermont, USA town skyline at twilight.
Source: Thinkstock

2. Vermont
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 17.6% (4th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 6.6% (4th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 36.5% (the highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (12th highest)

Safety and opportunities for social inclusion are both important parts of a positive environment for senior citizens, and Vermont has one of the best of any state. The Green Mountain State has the lowest violent crime rate in the country, with just 118 reported incidents for every 100,000 people. The comparable national violent crime rate is 373 incidents per 100,000 people. Vermont is also relatively rich with opportunities for social engagement for the elderly, with more social establishments per capita than any state except for Montana.

Senior citizens in Vermont are also among the most likely to have a college degree, and are therefore more likely to hold, or to have held jobs that pay well. A college education has many other benefits.

Row of condominiums in downtown Durango, Colorado
Source: Thinkstock

3. Colorado
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 13.0% (5th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.0% (8th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 36.3% (2nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.3 years (7th highest)

Elderly households often have fixed incomes, which increases the importance of an area’s affordability. Colorado is more expensive to live in than most states, but expensive living is more than offset by high incomes among the state’s elderly population. The typical elderly Colorado household has an annual income of $46,946, the 10th highest of all states and well above the national 65 and over median household income of $40,971 a year. Similarly, Colorado’s elderly poverty rate of 7% is one of the lowest compared with other states.

Man Fishing on the Big Blackfoot River in Montana
Source: Thinkstock

4. Montana
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 17.3% (5th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.6% (19th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 29.0% (15th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 years (22nd lowest)

Because elderly adults are relatively vulnerable to isolation and exclusion, the presence of social establishments such as movie theaters, casinos, bars, and golf courses can play a major role in the quality of life for older adults. In Montana, there are approximately 50 such establishments for every 10,000 residents, the highest concentration of all states and well above the national 30.1 venues to 10,000 person ratio.

The percentage of a state’s population over 65 years old was not used in our ranking of the best and worst states to grow old. However, an especially high share of seniors in a state certainly could be an indication of favorable conditions. Montana has the fifth largest share of elderly population, at 17.3% of residents.

Sandhill Ranch, farm barn South Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

5. South Dakota
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.7% (21st highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.3% (25th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 23.2% (17th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (19th highest)

The elderly are much more likely than younger people to fall dangerously ill, or to suffer from a debilitating chronic disease. For this reason, the availability of quality medical care in an area is an important. In South Dakota, there are nearly six hospitals per 100,000 residents, the most of any state and far more than the 1.4 hospitals per 100,000 residents nationwide ratio.

Social activities such as museums, clubs and organizations, and performing arts center can provide purpose and prevent loneliness for the elderly. South Dakota has 43.9 such organizations per 10,000 people, third highest concentration in the country.