Special Report

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

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20. Wyoming
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.2 years (tied – 24th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 7.3% (tied – 9th lowest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 33.9% (22nd highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $44,870 (20th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 96,557 (16.7% – 23rd highest)

In Wyoming, almost one-third of 65 and older residents do not have a personal doctor or health care provider, the largest share of any state after Alaska. However, the state ranks relatively well in other measures of our index, notably the category that measures environment and access. The state has one of the higher concentrations of social associations per 65 and older citizens.

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19. South Dakota
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.4 years (tied – 23rd highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 9.0% (tied – 22nd highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 31.2% (tied – 11th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $42,361 (18th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 146,358 (16.6% – 24th highest)

Access to public transportation can be important for older Americans who are unable to drive and rely on transit for mobility and independence. Compared to other states, South Dakota’s public transportation system is relatively small. Just 0.2% of workers in the state take public transportation or walk to work.

The state ranks well, however, in some other measures of quality of life for seniors. For example, the state has the second highest concentration of social organizations — such as clubs, bowling centers, golf clubs, fitness centers, sports organizations, or religious organizations — per 65 and older resident.

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18. Kansas
> Life expectancy at age 65: 84.0 years (tied – 20th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 8.0% (tied – 18th lowest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 36.5% (11th highest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $42,989 (25th lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 462,191 (15.9% – 18th lowest)

High crime rates. There were 439.0 violent crimes per 100,000 people in the state in 2018 and 2,633.9 property crimes per 100,000 — each higher than the national averages of 380.6 per 100,000 and 2,199.5 per 100,000, respectively.

Still, by several measures, senior citizens in the state are doing better than most of their counterparts nationwide. For example, just 8.0% of Kansas residents 65 and older live below the poverty line compared to 9.4% of retirement-age Americans nationwide.

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17. New York
> Life expectancy at age 65: 85.6 years (3rd highest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 11.8% (4th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 31.5% (12th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $45,302 (18th highest)
> Population 65 and older: 3.2 million (16.4% – 25th lowest)

Access to quality public transportation can help older Americans maintain their independence, particularly as declining health or eyesight means some are no longer able to drive. Using the share of workers who take public transportation as a proxy for the quality and reach of the state’s transit system, New York has the widest reaching public transportation networks of any state — with 28% of commuters statewide relying on it.

By other measures, senior citizens in New York are at a disadvantage. For example, 11.8% of the state population 65 and older lives below the poverty line, a larger share than in all but three states.

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16. Montana
> Life expectancy at age 65: 83.5 years (tied – 13th lowest)
> 65 and older poverty rate: 9.4% (17th highest)
> 65 and older pop. with a disability: 31.9% (tied – 15th lowest)
> Median income for 65 and older households: $42,745 (21st lowest)
> Population 65 and older: 200,239 (18.8% – 5th highest)

Retirement-age adults in Montana are less likely to have a personal doctor or health care provider than most Americans 65 and older. Still, obtaining health care when necessary may not be as difficult for older Montana residents as the state has a far higher per capita concentration of hospitals than the national average.

Remaining socially engaged through retirement can greatly improve quality of life, and in Montana, doing so is likely easier than in other states. There are 74.9 social organizations — such as clubs, bowling centers, golf clubs, fitness centers, sports organizations, or religious organizations — for every 100,000 65 and older residents in Montana, compared to 58.0 per 100,000 nationwide.

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