As boomers age, their retirement ambitions are likely to include more than just trading in their winter snow shovels for a fair-weathered community in a low-tax state. That is why the Milken Institute has created its new Best Cities for Successful Aging Index, which they compile every other.
Far from a list of Florida cities with cheap, and early, eats, the Milken Institute rankings (which are actually dominated by cold-weather places) take into account a wide number of variables—78 in fact—that point to a community’s health care resources, safety, affordability, comfort, ease of transportation, second-career opportunities, cultural offerings and community connectedness.
The study’s authors—Anusuya Chatterjee, Ross DeVol and Paul Irving—drilled deeply. In the area of heath care, for example, they looked at the number of doctors, hospital beds, dialysis centers and more; the number of hospitals with Alzheimer’s units and hospice centers; hospital expenses per inpatient day; the percentage of hospitals with medical school affiliations; and more than a dozen other factors.
They did the same for wellness indicators; financial indicators; employment and education indicators as well; they did all this for large metro areas and small metro areas; and they did this for two age cohorts—65 to 79 and 80 and older. The result is a multivariate ranking on steroids.
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“This index is a first research of its kind in the United States using public-use data that determine the overall quality of life for seniors,” Milken Institute scholar Anusuya Chatterjee said, commenting on the study for ThinkAdvisor. “Ninety percent of seniors want to age in [the same] place, and this index looks directly at how cities are meeting these needs.”
Chatterjee said the Milken Institute’s Successful Aging data site can be used as a tool for Americans to assess where each metro area stands. “Personal preference is of course the ultimate deciding guide,” she adds.
The big study examined two cohorts: one that included the 100 largest cities and regions and the other 259 smaller metropolitan areas. First up from ThinkAdvisor is the 20 Best Large Cities for Successful Aging, next will be the 15 Best Small Cities for Successful Aging.
20. Honolulu, Hawaii
Overall Score: 93.53
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 11; 93.70
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 37; 92.87
TAKEAWAY: This prime tourist spot is an expensive place to live. But it offers an excellent quality of life, good health care and many employment opportunities for seniors. The metro needs a more efficient transport system. Although ridership is high, fares are expensive. A long commute time adds to residents’ transportation woes.
19. Scranton—Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Overall Score: 93.54
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 24; 90.55
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 23; 94.13
TAKEAWAY: Scranton offers a low cost of living, a large senior population and a low crime rate. It benefits from its proximity to the services, cultural events and markets of Philadelphia. Owing to educational and retraining opportunities, the metro ranks high in the employment category. However, its economy is struggling.
17. (tie) Syracuse, N.Y.
Overall Score: 93.56
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 18; 91.96
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 27; 93.40
TAKEAWAY: A university town with quality health care, Syracuse enjoys the slower pace of a midsize burg but with access to larger metros like Rochester, Albany and New York. The metro’s weaknesses include living arrangements, a high tax burden and, of course, the weather.
17. (tie) Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
Overall Score: 93.56
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 22; 91.29
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 29; 93.31
TAKEAWAY: The metro is highly connected to New York City and is a global financial center. One of the safest places to live, the metro has educated residents who support all kinds of arts and culture. While residents are engaged and healthy, the metro ranks 99th in living arrangements due largely to cost and housing needs.
16. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Penn.-N.J.-Del.-Md.
Overall Score: 94.07
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 15; 92.21
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 17; 95.52
TAKEAWAY: Greater Philadelphia, a hotbed for pharma, has a large share of medical services and research facilities. It is well connected, with many educational facilities, historic landmarks and cultural venues, not to mention its proximity to other major cities in the Northeast. But all those amenities don’t come cheap.
15. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.
Overall Score: 94.19
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 17; 91.97
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 17; 95.52
TAKEAWAY: This capital city, home of the University of Arkansas and its medical school, has great health care, a low cost of living and a learning environment. But a less active population and unhealthy eating habits breed chronic disease in the metro. High rates of crime and fatal car crashes add to these woes.
14. Baton Rouge, La.
Overall Score: 94.73
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 9; 94.62
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 16; 95.83
TAKEAWAY: Baton Rouge enjoys a thriving economy, a great medical school, and its status as the state capital. However, job opportunities for those 65 and older are limited, and community engagement is on the low side, with few volunteer opportunities and a smaller population of seniors with whom to socialize.
13. Baltimore-Towson, Md.
Overall Score: 94.81
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 14; 92.29
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 19; 95.32
TAKEAWAY: Greater Baltimore enjoys the benefits of Johns Hopkins University and its proximity to Washington, offering residents opportunities in education, retraining, and cultural fulfillment. However, living arrangements are expensive, and small-business growth is sluggish.
12. Jackson, Miss.
Overall Score: 95.09
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 16; 92.12
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 9; 97.21