The Best and Worst States to Grow Old

Print Email

Key West, Monroe County, Florida
Source: Thinkstock

26. Florida
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 19.5% (the highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 10.3% (6th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 26.8% (21st highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.7 years (13th highest)

Florida’s popularity as a retirement destination is well known. Elderly state residents comprise nearly 20% of Florida’s population, the highest share in the nation. Despite the advantages of large elderly communities, and the appeal of Florida’s near-tropical climate, other factors peg Florida as just average for elderly Americans. For example, across the state, there are relatively few social establishments per capita. The number of marinas, golf courses, museums, parks, and other such organizations of 25.7 per 10,000 residents is close to the lowest concentration of all states. Even if there were more social opportunities for seniors, a relatively large share of Florida’s elderly would likely not be able to afford them. The poverty rate among Floridians 65 and older of 10.3% is tied for sixth highest in the country.

Rhode Island house
Source: Thinkstock

27. Rhode Island
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 16.1% (13th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 10.3% (6th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 26.2% (23rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.7 years (14th highest)

Rhode Island communities are relatively safe, and compared with other states there are abundant opportunities for social engagement. The state’s violent crime rate of 243 incidents per 100,000 people is among the lowest of all states. The concentration of social establishments such as golf course, amusement parks, marinas, and museums in Rhode Island, at 39.5 per 10,000 people, is seventh highest of states.

Yet, due to the relatively high likelihood of financial hardship among Rhode Island’s elderly, the state is slightly worse than most states for seniors. The elderly poverty rate of 10.3% is tied for sixth highest, and the 45% share of elders who have supplemental retirement income such as pension payments and 401k withdrawals is one of the lower percentages compared with other states.

Board Walk on the Beach, North Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

28. North Carolina
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.1% (24th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.2% (15th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 24.4% (21st lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.9 years (14th lowest)

Because elderly Americans frequently rely on lower, often fixed incomes, an area’s cost of living can have an outsized effect on older households. The cost of living in North Carolina, which is nearly 10% lower than the nation’s average, is certainly helpful for the state’s older residents. Still, incomes are also quite low. The typical elderly household in North Carolina has an annual income of $37,468, one of the lower senior income levels of all states.

Round Rock, Texas
Source: Thinkstock

29. Texas
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 11.7% (3rd lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 10.3% (6th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 25.0% (25th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.6 years (20th lowest)

Elderly Americans are at greater risk of social isolation. The presence of activities, clubs, and the arts can be valuable to seniors by providing human contact and engagement. Nationwide, there are 30.1 such social establishments for every 10,000 people. In Texas, there are only 25.1 such establishments per 10,000 residents, the third smallest concentration among states.

In addition, and perhaps adding to the risk of isolation, Texan senior citizens are more likely to be financially insecure. More than one in 10 state residents 65 and older live below the poverty line, tied for sixth highest among states.

Delicate arch sunset in the Utah desert, USA.
Source: Thinkstock

30. Utah
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 10.3% (2nd lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 6.8% (5th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 29.9% (11th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.9 years (11th highest)

Making up just over 10% of the population, Utah has nearly the smallest share of elderly population of all states. This does not mean seniors in the state are worse off than those in other states. In fact, despite Utah’s overall below-average ranking, its elderly population is very well-off by several measures. For example, of state residents 65 and over, 29.9% have a bachelor’s degree, and just 6.8% live in poverty — each among the better measures compared with older cohorts in other states. However, other factors offset these more positive ones. For instance, the concentration of social establishments in the state, at just 20 per 10,000 people, is the lowest of all states. The presence of these organizations can help reduce the generally high likelihood of exclusion and isolation among elderly populations.