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 created its Best Cities for Successful Aging Index, which they compiled in 2012 and won’t update till 2014.
Last year, ThinkAdvisor published two, more extensive versions of the Aging Index: 20 Best Big Cities for Successful Aging and 15 Best Small Cities for Successful Aging. In this version we’ve condensed those findings, extracting the top cities of those two stories and combining them here into two categories: big metro areas and small metro areas.
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.
“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.”
The big study examined two cohorts: one that included the 100 largest cities and regions and the other 259 smaller metropolitan areas. Please read ThinkAdvisor’s slice of that large study: 12 Best U.S. Cities for Successful Aging.
Top 6 Small Metro Areas for Successful Aging
6. Gainesville, Fla.
Overall Score: 92.26
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 5; 91.86
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 6; 93.25
TAKEAWAY: Home of the University of Florida, Gainesville is a vibrant town with great weather and a strong fiscal base. The university-affiliated Shands HealthCare system is one of the best in the nation. However, a slow economy and a small senior population in the metro might prevent seniors from relocating here.
5. Rochester, Minn.
Overall Score: 92.49
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 12; 89.06
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 4; 94.34
TAKEAWAY: The Mayo Clinic, one of the best hospitals in the nation, is located here. Needless to say, this has attracted many health care providers. Safe and secure neighborhoods offer a superior quality of life. But the sluggish economy and low college enrollment are definite weaknesses.
4. Columbia, Mo.
Overall Score: 94.43
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 4; 93.26
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 5; 94.00
TAKEAWAY: Thanks in part to a strong tax base, Columbia offers excellent educational facilities and health care. University-sponsored research is an incubator for innovation and new businesses, which gives seniors access to cutting-edge technology in health care and supports entrepreneurial activities. However, the metro is short on recreation and culture.
3. Bismarck, N.D.
Overall Score: 95.44
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 3; 93.30
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 3; 96.26
TAKEAWAY: The capital city is reaping the benefits of North Dakota’s oil and gas boom. It ranks high in senior employment, and the large service sector increases the chances of finding a job. If weather is not a high priority, Bismarck offers excellent opportunities for working seniors.
2. Iowa City, Iowa
Overall Score: 98.63
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 2; 97.07
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 1; 100.00
TAKEAWAY: Home to the University of Iowa and its medical school, Iowa City has excellent health care, little crime and relatively few seniors below the poverty line. On the flip side, housing and rentals are pricier than the median for small metros. Although its population skews younger, the presence of a young working-age population implies a solid fiscal base.
1. Sioux Falls, S.D.
Overall Score: 100.00