The Best and Worst States to Grow Old

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Columbus Georgia Downtown
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31. Georgia
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 12.8% (4th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.7% (13th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 25.0% (25th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.5 years (11th lowest)

Average life expectancy at birth in Georgia is 77.5 years, 1.3 years lower than the U.S. life expectancy. In addition to living slightly shorter lives on average, Georgia’s elderly may be more at risk of social isolation. The state has just 26.8 social establishments, such as museums, civic organizations, and libraries, per 10,000 residents. Nationwide, there are 30.1 such establishments for every 10,000 people.

Clinton, New Jersey
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32. New Jersey
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.0% (23rd lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.9% (23rd lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 28.1% (17th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.3 years (8th highest)

Like the state’s population as a whole, New Jersey’s elderly residents are relatively well off financially. The typical elderly household has an annual income of $47,355, the eighth highest of all states. Based on life expectancy and disabilities, seniors in New Jersey are also relatively healthy. The life expectancy at birth of over 80 years is eighth highest, and just 32.6% of residents 65 and over report having a disability, the sixth lowest percentage. New Jersey’s position on this list would be higher if not for the state’s high cost of living, which at approximately 14.5% more than the nation’s average prices, is third highest in the country. Further, the concentration of medical facilities — there are just 0.71 hospitals for every 100,000 people — is second lowest in the country.

Lighthouse and sailboat, Muskegon, Michigan
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33. Michigan
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.8% (18th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.8% (22nd lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 23.4% (18th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 years (15th lowest)

Behind only Delaware seniors, Michigan’s older residents are the most likely in the country to have some form of retirement income other than Social Security. Compared to the 49.1% of Americans 65 and over who earn such incomes, which include IRAs, 401ks, and pensions, 57.4% of Michigan elderly do.

While the state’s seniors may be slightly more financially secure, they are less likely than their peers nationwide to be in perfect health. The state’s annual mortality rate over the age of 65 is higher than the national figure, life expectancy is slightly lower, and fewer adults have a personal doctor than those in most other states.

The Tappan Zee from the Castle, Rockland County, New York
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34. New York
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.0% (22nd lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 11.2% (3rd highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 27.0% (20th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.5 years (6th highest)

New York’s seniors are among the least likely to be financially secure in the country. Among residents 65 and over, 11.2% live at or below the poverty line, the third highest share across all states. The typical elderly household in the state has an income of $40,918 a year, which is roughly in line with the national median household for the elderly. However, the relative cost of goods and services in New York is very high, about 15% higher than the average cost of living nationwide. For seniors who live on a fixed income, high prices can can add to the financial strain of living on a fixed income.

Rio Rancho with Sandia Mountains, New Mexico
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35. New Mexico
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.9% (16th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 11.1% (5th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 29.9% (11th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.2 years (16th lowest)

Poor health among New Mexico older residents is one of several indications the state is not the greatest place to grow old. Of new Mexico residents 65 and older, over 40% report having a disability, the seventh highest percentage. While roughly 30% of seniors in New Mexico have a college degree, among the highest elderly educational attainment rates, incomes are low and poverty is relatively high among the age group. At 11.1%, New Mexico residents 65 and older are more likely to be in poverty than older residents in all but four other states. Generally, older individuals are also at greater risk than others in unsafe communities, and New Mexico is not especially safe. The state’s violent crime rate of 656 incidents per 100,000 people is the third highest of all states.