The Best and Worst States to Grow Old

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Wichita, Kansas
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21. Kansas
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 14.6% (16th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.3% (15th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 25.7% (25th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.6 years (19th lowest)

The physical decline that comes with aging means access to nearby medical facilities is especially beneficial for elderly communities. While seniors living in Kansas are not especially better off than elderly populations in most states, there are nearly five hospitals for every 10,000 residents in the state, the fifth highest concentration of all states. Kansas residents 65 and over, many of whom likely do not expect their incomes to rise significantly beyond current levels, also benefit from the state’s low cost of living. On average, goods and services in Kansas cost nearly 10% less than they do nationwide.

Phoenix, Arizona 3
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22. Arizona
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 16.4% (10th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.0% (17th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 27.8% (18th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (16th highest)

Arizona’s elderly population appears to be relatively healthy. The state has a very low annual elderly mortality rate, at just 3,569 deaths per 100,000 residents 65 and older, compared to a national elderly mortality rate of 4,260 per 100,000 seniors. However, those who live longer may be lonelier and less engaged. Arizona has just 22.2 social establishments such as clubs, artistic venues, and recreational facilities for every 10,000 residents, the second lowest proportion in the country.

Baltimore, Maryland 3
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23. Maryland
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 14.1% (9th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.3% (15th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 32.6% (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.3 years (22nd highest)

The national average retirement age is 63 years. One consequence of this is that millions of elderly residents are at risk of financial insecurity if Social Security proves insufficient and their savings are not sufficient to cover expenses through end of life. In Maryland, 56.7% of senior citizens have at least one supplemental form of retirement income in addition to Social Security, such as 401ks, pensions, and IRAs. This is higher than the 49.1% of American senior citizens with a supplemental retirement income. The median income of elderly households in the state of $53,401 a year is third highest in the country.

Chicago, Illinois 4
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24. Illinois
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 14.2% (12th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.5% (21st highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 24.3% (20th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.2 years (24th highest)

Many senior citizens who lose mobility or the ability to drive lose their sense of independence and their quality of life is often diminished. This loss of independence can be avoided in parts of the country that have more public transportation options such as buses and subways, and where walking from home to the grocery store or bank is possible. Illinois is one such state, as 12.3% of workers walk to work or use public transportation, the fourth highest share in the country.

Court House Main Street Pacific Ocean Santa Barbara County, California
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25. California
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 13.3% (6th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.9% (10th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 30.1% (9th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.9 years (2nd highest)

California has one of the higher poverty rates for senior citizens in the country, with about one in 10 living below the poverty line, 10th highest among states. Supplemental forms of retirement income, in addition to Social Security, such as IRAs, 401ks, and pensions, can help seniors living on fixed income to live above the poverty line. In California, only 45% of residents 65 and older have a form of retirement income other than Social Security, compared to 49% senior citizens nationwide.