Special Report

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

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45. Kentucky
> Life expectancy at age 65: 82.5 years (tied – the lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 10.2% (tied – 11th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 39.7% (5th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $38,254 (6th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 731,392 (16.4% – 24th lowest)

Kentucky’s older residents are among the least likely to be healthy compared to those in other states. There were over 4,700 deaths per 100,000 people 65 and older in the state in 2018, the second highest rate of any state. The state is also tied with West Virginia for having the second lowest life expectancy at 65 of any state. Just under 40% of state retirement-age residents have some form of disability, the fifth highest share of any state.

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44. Tennessee
> Life expectancy at age 65: 83.1 years (tied – 8th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 9.2% (19th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 37.4% (tied – 9th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $39,933 (7th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 1.1 million (16.3% – 23rd 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 Tennessee, however, public transit may be harder to rely on as just 1.3% of workers commute using public transportation or walk, well below the 7.5% share of commuters nationwide and likely indicative of a poor transit system.

The overall quality of life in Tennessee is also reduced by high crime rates. The concentration of violent crimes in the state is the third highest in the country, and the property crime rate ranks 10th highest among states.

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43. Oklahoma
> Life expectancy at age 65: 82.9 years (tied – 6th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 8.7% (tied – 25th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 42.6% (the highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $40,928 (10th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 619,601 (15.7% – 15th lowest)

Based on the measures used in the index, Oklahoma has the least healthy retirement-age population in the country. Of all residents in the state who are at least 65, a nation-highest 42.6% have some form of disability, compared to a national share of 33.9%. The state also has the highest annual mortality rate for seniors, with 4,715 deaths per 100,000 people 65 and over, nearly 700 deaths above the national rate.

The state also appears to have a relatively weak public transportation network — an important factor in independence for people 65 and older.

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42. Nevada
> Life expectancy at age 65: 83.9 years (tied – 18th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 9.8% (15th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 33.6% (tied – 25th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $46,406 (16th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 475,120 (15.7% – 13th lowest)

Nevada’s ranks as the second worst state in measures of environment and access in our index. Notably, the state has the smallest concentration of social associations per person 65 and over, as well as one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. Additionally, more than 30% of Nevada’s seniors do not have a doctor or personal health care professional.

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41. Texas
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.2 years (tied – 24th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 11.1% (6th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 36.4% (tied – 12th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $44,319 (22nd highest)
> Population 65 and older: 3.6 million (12.5% – 3rd lowest)

Retirement-age Americans are more likely to be struggling financially in Texas than in the vast majority of other states. Of the 65 and older population in Texas, 11.1% live below the poverty line, a larger share than in all but five other states.

Senior citizens in Texas are also more likely to have to rely on a personal vehicle for transportation than most older Americans. Just 2.8% of commuters in the state use public transportation or walk, well below the 7.5% share of commuters nationwide.

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