Special Report

The Worst States to Grow Old In

Detailed Findings

One of the most important factors for a healthy retirement is financial stability. The vast majority of Americans 65 and older are retired or not working, and though nearly 90% of elderly households benefit from Social Security income, government assistance alone is often not enough.

For older Americans living on a limited fixed income, unforeseen expenses can be especially burdensome. As a result, older households with an income stream in addition to Social Security are often far better equipped for retirement and less likely to face serious financial hardship.

Nationwide, 48.8% of households headed by an adult age 65 and older have some supplemental retirement income, such as a pension. In 21 of the 25 states with a larger share of elderly households with supplemental retirement income, the poverty rate among elderly residents is below the national elderly poverty rate of 9.2%.

America’s seniors face other unique challenges in addition to finances. Many seniors no longer drive due to deteriorating vision and worsening reaction times. But this does not have to mean loss of independence and mobility, and some states are better equipped to accommodate residents who no longer drive. States in which large shares of commuters either walk or use public transportation afford better access to services for those who do not drive.

Nationwide, some 7.8% of commuters either walk or use public transit. In several high ranking states on this list, including Maryland and Massachusetts, this share is in the double digits.

Just as maintaining independence can improve quality of life, so too can easy access to venues for social interaction. These venues include performing arts companies, sports stadiums, museums, historical sites, libraries, bars, casinos, golf courses and country clubs, and religious organizations, to name a few. Of the 20 highest ranking states, 14 have a greater concentration of social establishments than the U.S. average concentration of 9.4 venues per 10,000 people.

While remaining social in retirement can be beneficial to overall well-being, access to medical care is critical as well, as health tends to deteriorate with age. As result, states with more hospitals per capita are more likely to rank favorably as ideal places for older Americans.

One factor that can affect a range of outcomes important to seniors, including life expectancy and retirement income, is education. Americans with a college education are more likely to live longer, healthier lives and retain their cognitive abilities into old age. Nationwide, 26.7% of adults 65 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In the 15 top ranking states on this list, this share is higher.

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