Special Report

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

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30. North Carolina
> Life expectancy at age 65: 83.9 years (tied – 18th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 8.7% (tied – 25th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 34.3% (tied – 16th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $41,169 (12th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 1.7 million (16.3% – 22nd lowest)

Senior citizens in North Carolina are slightly less likely to be struggling financially than those in much of the rest of the country. The poverty rate among the state’s 65 and older population is 8.7%, compared to the 9.4% national 65 and over poverty rate.

Disadvantages for the state’s older population include inaccessible, unreliable, or underdeveloped public transportation infrastructure, as evidenced by low usage rates. Just 2.8% of commuters in the state use public transit, well below the national average of 7.5%.

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29. Pennsylvania
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.0 years (tied – 20th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 8.3% (20th lowest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 33.2% (21st lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $41,762 (16th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 2.3 million (18.2% – 8th highest)

There are more than 2.3 million retirement-age Pennsylvania residents, more than in all but four other states. The state’s older residents benefit from a higher than average concentration of hospitals as well as social associations, such as clubs, bowling centers, golf clubs, fitness centers, sports organizations, or religious organizations.

Still, just 15.1% of older Pennsylvania residents have their own doctor or health care provider, which can improve the quality of care received and can be critical in old age. Life expectancy at age 65 in Pennsylvania is also shorter than it is in most other states.

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28. Arizona
> Life expectancy at age 65: 85.1 years (8th highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 8.6% (tied – 24th lowest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 33.6% (tied – 25th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $46,152 (17th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 1.3 million (17.6% – 13th highest)

Financial security can be critical to quality of life, and Arizona’s older population is more likely than most 65 and older Americans to have retirement income in the form of a 401(k), pension, or similar source and less likely to live below the poverty line.

While the state may be an attractive option for many older Americans looking to retire in a warmer climate, remaining social into old age may be harder in Arizona than most other states. The state has a relatively low concentration of social associations like clubs, bowling centers, golf clubs, fitness centers, sports organizations, or religious organizations just 31.6 per 100,000 65 and older residents, well below the national concentration of 58.0 per 100,000.

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27. Wisconsin
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.7 years (tied – 13th highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 7.9% (tied – 16th lowest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 30.6% (4th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $41,362 (14th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 986,483 (17.0% – 20th highest)

Wisconsin’s seniors tend to have relatively low incomes. The median annual household income for 65 and older households is $41,362, which is roughly $3,600 below the comparable national median income. However, a relatively small 7.9% of 65 and older residents live in poverty in the state, compared to the comparable national poverty rate of 9.4%.

Just 30.6% of retirement-age residents in the state have some form of disability, the fourth smallest share among states.

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26. Illinois
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.5 years (tied – 17th highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 8.8% (24th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 32.0% (16th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $44,955 (19th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 2.0 million (15.6% – 12th lowest)

Access to quality public transportation can help seniors maintain their independence, particularly as declining health or eyesight means some are no longer able to drive. Using the share of workers who commute by taking public transportation as a proxy for the quality and reach of the state’s public transit, Illinois has one of the widest reaching public transportation networks of any state. In several of the categories considered for this index, including education and environment and access, the state ranks approximately in the middle of all states.

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