The Best and Worst States to Grow Old

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Wisconsin Welcome sign at Marinette WI
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16. Wisconsin
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.6% (23rd highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.1% (9th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 22.1% (14th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (15th highest)

Risk of life-altering mental or physical disability dramatically increases with age. Across the country, 35.4% of Americans 65 and over struggle with a disability. In Wisconsin, the disability rate is much lower, at just 31.7% of seniors, the third-lowest proportion of any state. For Wisconsin seniors who suffer from a disability, access to medical facilities for treatment is easier than in most states. There are 2.1 hospitals per 100,000 state residents, compared to a 1.4 hospitals per 100,000 person ratio nationwide.

Ocean park near Oak Bluffs Beach on Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod Massachusetts.
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17. Massachusetts
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.4% (25th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.2% (15th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 32.1% (4th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.7 years (5th highest)

While 65 is considered by many the target age for retirement, many senior citizens continue to work, either out of financial necessity or because it gives a continued sense of purpose and dignity. In Massachusetts, 32.1% of seniors have a bachelor’s degree, a far higher share than the 25.8% of seniors nationwide. Seniors with a degree are more likely to earn higher incomes and live a comfortable and financially independent life.

Iowa farmland, corn
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18. Iowa
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 16.0% (15th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.0% (8th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 19.7% (6th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.3 years (21st highest)

A large share of senior citizens lives on a fixed income, which makes the affordability of essential goods and services in an area a key to financial security. In Iowa, the typical elderly household has an income of $40,144 a year, which is slightly below the U.S. median income for the elderly. However, goods and services in Iowa tend to be very inexpensive, costing about 10 cents less for every dollar spent compared to the nation as a whole.

Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware
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19. Delaware
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 17.0% (7th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 6.2% (3rd lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 26.2% (23rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 years (24th lowest)

Elderly Delaware residents report the third lowest poverty rate of all states, at 6.2%. The low level of financial hardship is likely largely due to the large share of 65 and older Delaware residents who have retirement income in addition to Social Security, which at 58.5% is the highest of all states. This includes income such as pension payments, 401k withdrawals, and investment returns. Older state residents also report relatively good physical health compared to other states. Of residents 65 and over, 31.5% have a disability, the second lowest share of all states. For reference, 35.4% of all elderly Americans report a disability of any kind.

waikiki beach and diamond head in honolulu hawaii
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20. Hawaii
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 16.6% (8th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.8% (22nd lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 28.8% (16th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.2 years (the highest)

A large share of senior citizens lives on a fixed income, which heightens the importance of the cost of goods and services. Unfortunately for those elderly Hawaiians relying exclusively on Social Security, the cost of goods and services, including housing and medical treatment, is the highest of any state and 17% higher than the average cost nationwide. However, elderly Hawaiians are more likely to be able to afford these higher prices, as the typical senior citizen household earns $62,885 in annual income, the highest of any state.