Special Report

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

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50. West Virginia
> Life expectancy at age 65: 82.5 years (tied – the lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 10.0% (14th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 41.2% (3rd highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $36,147 (the lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 361,216 (20.0% – 3rd highest)

Based on our index, West Virginia ranks as the worst state in the country to grow old in, in large part because of the myriad of health issues for seniors in the state. West Virginia is one of just four states where 40% or more of residents 65 and older have a disability. The state is tied with Kentucky for having the second shortest life expectancy for people who are 65.

Higher education is tied to empowerment, and West Virginia’s retirement-age citizens are the least likely to have a bachelor’s degree.

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49. Arkansas
> Life expectancy at age 65: 82.9 years (tied – 6th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 10.2% (tied – 11th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 41.9% (2nd highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $37,762 (4th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 507,676 (16.8% – 22nd highest)

Access to quality public transportation can help retirement-age residents maintain their independence, particularly as declining health or eyesight means some are no longer able to drive. Using workers taking public transportation as a proxy for the state infrastructure, Arkansas’s public transportation network is one of the most limited in the country. Less than 0.5% of workers in the state use public transportation to go to work, compared to some 5% of workers nationwide.

Like many of the states that rank as worse places to grow old, Arkansas ranks especially poorly in measures of senior health, including life expectancy at 65 and older Americans with a disability.

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48. Mississippi
> Life expectancy at age 65: 82.6 years (3rd lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 12.4% (tied – 2nd highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 39.6% (6th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $36,415 (3rd lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 474,423 (15.9% – 19th lowest)

Like many of its neighbors in the South, Mississippi ranks as one of the worst states for older Americans, largely due to measures of retirement-age income, education, and health. People who are 65 today are expected to live to the age of 82.6, which is the third lowest life expectancy in the U.S. and almost two years lower than the national life expectancy at 65. Mississippi is also one of a minority of states where more than one in four seniors do not have a personal doctor or health care provider.

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47. Louisiana
> Life expectancy at age 65: 83.1 years (tied – 8th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 12.4% (tied – 2nd highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 38.0% (8th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $36,345 (2nd lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 720,610 (15.5% – 10th lowest)

Retirement-age Americans living in Louisiana are more likely to be struggling financially than those living in nearly every other state. The typical 65 and older household in the state earns just $36,345 a year, well below the national median income of retirement-age households of $44,992. Similarly, 12.4% of the state’s 65 and older population lives below the poverty line, the second highest elderly poverty rate among states.

The overall quality of life in Louisiana is also reduced by the state’s high crime rates. Both the state’s property and violent crime rates rank among the highest in the country.

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46. Alabama
> Life expectancy at age 65: 82.7 years (4th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 10.3% (tied – 9th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 39.0% (7th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $37,977 (5th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 829,663 (17.0% – 19th highest)

Alabama ranks as one of the worst states for older Americans in several different categories in our index, including health, education, and environment. For example, the state appears to have one of the least extensive public transportation networks of any state. Seniors are vulnerable to violence and are less likely to recover, and Alabama has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country.

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