The Best and Worst States to Grow Old

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Charleston, South Carolina
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36. South Carolina
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 16.2% (12th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.3% (14th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 24.2% (19th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.9 years (9th lowest)

South Carolina’s environment presents some quality of life challenges for seniors. The elderly are more vulnerable to violent crime. South Carolina’s a violent crime rate of more than 500 incidents per 100,000 people is much higher than the national rate of 373 per 100,000. As many seniors stop driving, a public transportation infrastructure or a relatively walkable area can help seniors maintain their independence. In South Carolina, perhaps as a sign of the importance of driving in the state, just 2.5% of workers commute to work, compared to 8.0% of all workers nationwide. This is the third lowest proportion in the country.

St. Louis, Missouri
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37. Missouri
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.6% (22nd highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.5% (21st highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 21.7% (13th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.6 years (12th lowest)

Missouri’s seniors are less likely to be healthy than those in most other states. A higher than average share of seniors suffer from a disability, and the annual mortality rate of residents 65 and older is higher than average.

Older Americans are vulnerable to mistreatment of all sorts, including physical violence. In Missouri, the likelihood of growing old in a safe community is lower than in most states. The state’s violent crime rate of nearly 500 incidents per 100,000 people is ninth highest nationwide.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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38. Pennsylvania
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 17.0% (6th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.8% (22nd lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 21.7% (13th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.6 years (21st lowest)

Elderly Pennsylvanians have relatively good access to health services. Just 13.2% of adults report not having a personal doctor, one of the lowest such percentages, and the concentration of medical facilities such as hospitals is in line with the national number. Despite these advantage, older Pennsylvania residents are less healthy than older residents in other states. The annual mortality rate for residents over 65, at 4,771 per 100,000 people, is eighth highest.

Toledo, Ohio
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39. Ohio
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.8% (17th highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.6% (19th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 20.2% (9th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.6 years (13th lowest)

For senior citizens, there are several benefits to having at least a bachelor’s degree. In general, a college education can help create a sense of control over one’s life. In addition, while the median retirement age nationwide is 63, many Americans work into their 70s. Those with a bachelor’s degree are more likely to earn higher wages and be financially secure when retirement comes. In Ohio, barely one in five seniors have a bachelor’s degree, compared to the one in four who do nationwide.

Reno, Nevada downtown during winter
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40. Nevada
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 14.6% (15th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.4% (24th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor attainment: 24.9% (23rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.2 years (17th lowest)

Older Americans are more at risk of social isolation, and the presence of nearby activities, such as clubs, and music and arts facilities, can help seniors stay socially and mentally engaged. In Nevada, there is a dearth of such establishments. Compared to the national concentration of 30.1 establishments per 10,000 Americans, Nevada has just 26.2 for every 10,000 residents, the fifth lowest concentration of any state. In addition to the lack of social venues, Nevadans are less likely than those in most other states to have access to a nearby hospital. There are just 1.1 hospitals per 100,000 Nevadans, compared to the 1.4 hospitals for every 100,000 Americans.