Special Report

The Worst States to Grow Old In

Evan Comen, Samuel Stebbins


To determine the best and worst states in which to grow old, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed several statewide as well as elderly population-specific data. The data includes income, health, education, and environment and access. We created an index of the various measures for each of these four broad categories. The geometric mean of the four index values was used to rank states.

To construct the indices we used the min-max normalization method. For reference, a similar methodology was used in constructing HelpAge International’s Global AgeWatch Index and the United Nation’s Human Development Index.


The percentage of elderly households with supplemental retirement income as well as poverty rates and median household income for the 65 and over population are one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. Additionally, as a measure of cost of living, we considered regional price parity from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.


The percentage of noninstitutionalized people 65 and over with a disability came from the Census. We also included 2014 life expectancy at birth from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research center affiliated with the University of Washington; the percentage of adults who reported having a personal doctor in 2016 from the Kaiser Family Foundation; and the 2013 crude elderly mortality rate per 100,000 people 65 and over in each state from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The share of people 65 and over with a bachelor’s degree or higher came from the ACS.

Environment and Access

The environment and access category includes 2016 violent crime rates from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and the share of workers who walk or use public transportation is from the ACS. In addition, this category includes data on the number of social establishments — restaurants, libraries, civic organizations, among others — as well as the number of hospitals in the state. Both numbers came from County Business Patterns and are for 2015 and adjusted for population.