Special Report

The Best (And Worst) States for Older Americans, Ranked

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10. Virginia
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.5 years (tied – 17th highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 8.4% (21st lowest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 33.1% (20th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $51,401 (11th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 1.3 million (15.5% – 11th lowest)

Virginia’s high ranking is due in part to its high quality of life, bolstered by low crime rates. Both Virginia’s violent and property crime rates fall well below the comparable national averages.

Remaining socially engaged through retirement can greatly improve quality of life — and in Virginia, doing so is likely easier than in other states. There are 73.1 social organizations — such as clubs, bowling centers, golf clubs, fitness centers, sports organizations, or religious organizations — for every 100,000 65 and older residents, compared to 58.0 per 100,000 nationwide.

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9. Vermont
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.8 years (12th highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 9.3% (18th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 31.9% (tied – 15th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $44,302 (23rd highest)
> Population 65 and older: 123,875 (19.8% – 4th highest)

In the income component of our index, Vermont ranks poorly compared to most states, in part due to the fact that only 41.9% of senior households have some form of retirement income like a pension or 401(k), the fourth lowest share among states.

However, life for older citizens in Vermont is comparably good by many other measures, including access, education, and health. In the state, just 14.3% of 65 and older residents lack a personal doctor or health care provider, the fourth lowest share of any state.

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8. Washington
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.9 years (tied – 10th highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 7.2% (7th lowest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 34.0% (tied – 20th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $52,150 (9th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 1.2 million (15.4% – 9th lowest)

For many senior citizens with deteriorating vision and reaction time, driving is not an option. This is often why older Americans may choose to live in areas with reliable public transportation. In Washington, public transit is likely easier to rely on as 10.7% of workers commute using public transportation or by walking, above the 7.5% share of commuters nationwide.

Life expectancy at age 65 in Washington is also higher than average. The typical 65 year old in Washington is expected to live to be 84.9 years old, about half a year above the national average.

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7. Massachusetts
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.9 years (tied – 10th highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 9.1% (tied – 20th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 31.2% (tied – 11th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $49,756 (13th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 1.1 million (16.5% – 25th highest)

Massachusetts ranks as one of the best states in the country in measures of senior education and health. A higher than average 35% of the state’s 65 and over residents have a bachelor’s degree, which can be tied to empowerment.

Additionally, the state has among the highest life expectancy at 65. This high life expectancy may be partly related to the fact that only 13.3% of retirement-age residents in the state do not have a personal doctor or health care provider, the lowest share nationwide and significantly lower than the national share of 22.8%.

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6. Utah
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.5 years (tied – 17th highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 6.1% (tied – 3rd lowest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 32.9% (19th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $53,670 (7th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 351,297 (11.1% – the lowest)

Utah does not rank quite as well as some of the other best states for older Americans in measures of individual health, but it ranks as one of the best in the education and income categories of our index. It is one of just four states where over 55% of 65 and older households have some form of retirement income like a pension or 401(k) compared to a national share of 48.5%. Also, just 6.1% of Utah’s retirement-age population lives below the poverty level, the third smallest share of any state.

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