The Worst States to Grow Old In

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16. Nebraska
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.0% (14th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.8% (15th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor’s deg. attainment: 24.9% (20th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (17th highest)

Nebraska has one of the healthier populations in the country. The life expectancy at birth in the state is 79.6 years, or about six months longer than the national life expectancy of 79.1 years and more than a majority of states. The median age of the 65 and older population in Nebraska is 73.6 years, the fifth oldest population of any state.

Nebraskan seniors may have better access to health care than the average elderly American. There are 31 hospitals per 100,000 senior citizens, the sixth most of any state. The state also has more social establishments per capita than the average concentration nationwide. There are 14 social associations per 10,000 state residents, more than the national rate of 9 per 100,000 Americans.

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17. Wisconsin
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 16.0% (21st highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 7.6% (11th lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor’s deg. attainment: 24.0% (16th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (14th highest)

Wisconsin’s elderly population has better health outcomes than in a majority of states. Just 31.8% of state residents 65 and older have a disability, the ninth smallest share of any state. Life expectancy at birth in Wisconsin is 79.8 years, roughly nine months longer than the U.S. figure. The median age of the 65 and older population is 73.4 years, one of the higher such figures of any state.

In Wisconsin, some 93.2% of senior-led households receive Social Security benefits, nearly the largest share in the country. Despite the income boost, the typical elderly household earns just $38,948 a year, more than $3,000 less than the corresponding national median. One reason for the low incomes may be low college attainment. Just 24.0% of state residents 65 and over have a bachelor’s degree, somewhat less than the national college attainment among the elderly of of 26.7%.

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18. New Jersey
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.3% (22nd lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 8.3% (22nd lowest)
> 65 and over bachelor’s deg. attainment: 29.6% (14th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years (10th highest)

New Jersey ranks higher than a majority of states in a number of measures related to the income, education, and health of elderly residents. The median household income among households led by residents 65 and over in the state is $49,656 a year, the sixth highest of any state. The high incomes may partially be the result of high educational attainment. An estimated 29.6% of seniors in the state have a bachelor’s degree, far more than the 26.7% national share. Wealthy, educated adults often lead healthier, longer lives, and in New Jersey the life expectancy is 80 years — the 10th longest of any state.

One factor that also contributes to well-being in old age is mobility. Walkable areas and access to public transportation can provide residents with a greater degree of freedom, which can help seniors continue to lead active, healthy lives. Indicative of the state’s walkability and effective transit infrastructure, some 14.7% of commuters in New Jersey walk or take public transportation to work, the largest share of any state other than New York and Massachusetts.

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19. South Dakota
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 15.9% (23rd highest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 10.9% (6th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor’s deg. attainment: 24.7% (18th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (19th highest)

In South Dakota, the typical senior-led household earns just $39,528 a year, over $2,500 less than the corresponding national median. Some 10.9% of residents 65 and older live in poverty, the sixth largest share in the country. One factor contributing to the low incomes may be the low educational attainment among the state’s senior citizens. Just 24.7% of adults 65 and older have a bachelor’s degree, less than the 26.7% national elderly college attainment rate.

While seniors are less likely to be wealthy and college-educated in South Dakota, they may have better access to health care and social opportunities than the average elderly American, which are important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle in old age. There are 43 hospitals and 168 social associations per 100,000 senior citizens in South Dakota, each the highest such figure of any state.

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20. Illinois
> Pct. of pop. age 65 and up: 14.6% (11th lowest)
> 65 and over poverty rate: 9.2% (16th highest)
> 65 and over bachelor’s deg. attainment: 25.4% (22nd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years (25th lowest)

The median household income among households led by residents 65 and over in Illinois is $41,253 a year, slightly below the corresponding national median of $42,113. Income is closely correlated to educational attainment, and the college attainment rate among senior citizens in the state of 25.4% is also slightly below the 26.7% national figure.

While the Illinois senior population trails the United States as a whole in income and education, the state’s urban environment may be more senior-friendly than that of most of the country. Walkable areas with access to public transportation can grant many senior citizens a greater degree of independence, and help them live active, healthy lives in old age. Indicative of the state’s walkability and effective transit infrastructure, an estimated 12.4% of Illinois workers commute by walking or taking public transit, the fourth largest share in the country.