Everyone has a list of the best places to retire; Florida, Arizona and other warmer climes usually dominate. But weather might not be the best way to judge which cities are the best to age successfully.
The Milken Institute this week released its biannual list of cities for successful aging. The top of the list is dominated by places whose residents must endure real winters.
Milken looked at a number of metrics — 84 in all — that measured financial security, safety, affordability, cultural amenities, health and happiness, among other things. The idea was to dig beyond weather and look at services and lifestyle amenities available in large cities and smaller metro areas across the country.
That’s important, Milken noted, citing the AARP finding that 90 percent of older people want to age in their own homes. The Milken survey serves as a guide for the 80 million baby boomers to see what services for the elderly are available where they live.
“We need to start looking at what facilities people need to successfully age,” said Anusuya Chatterjee, co-author of the report and senior economist at the Milken Institute. “One of the things we wanted to say is that most people want to age at home and in place. This survey shows how well equipped these cities and metro areas are to help” them do so.
Chatterjee — whose co-authors were research analyst Jacque King and Milken President Paul Irving — added that the idea of the survey is to “start a conversation” with civic leaders, politicians and citizens about the needs of an aging population. To that end, the institute asked mayors across the country to sign a pledge to work on making their cities successful places for aging. So far, more than 130 have taken the pledge.
Keep reading for the 12 best cities for successful aging — six from small Metro areas and six from big Metro areas.
TOP 6 SMALL METRO AREAS FOR SUCCESSFUL AGING
6. Ames, Iowa
Age 65-79 Rank: 6
Age 80+ Rank: 3
TAKEAWAY: Hosting the Big 12 campus of Iowa State University, Ames residents enjoy a strong town-gown connection. Learning opportunities, low unemployment and an expanding economy characterize this Hawkeye State metro. But growing demand requires more specialty health care.
5. Rapid City, South Dakota
Age 65-79 Rank: 8
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 33
TAKEAWAY: A stable economy and low jobless rate among the older population make this an attractive place to live for the elderly. In addition, there are recreational opportunities, and older residents are active as volunteers. Long distances to grocery stores and low ridership on public transportation are negatives. Even worse is a high rate of Alzheimer’s disease, but no hospitals with a unit to care for such patients.
4. Bismarck, North Dakota
Age 65-79 Rank: 4
Age 80+ Rank: 7
TAKEAWAY: The lowest unemployment rate in the category with a strong economy bolstered by growth in the hospitality and leisure industries make this a good place to age. Adding to mix are high income growth and quality health care and nursing homes. The state funds public transportation, but the system has low ridership. The biggest negatives to the metro area are expensive housing and a lack of home health care workers.
3. Columbia, Missouri
Age 65-79 Rank and Score: 3
Age 80+ Rank and Score: 4
TAKEAWAY: Top hospitals and rehab centers along with an abundance of doctors, surgeons and nurses make this a good place to grow old. A stable economy with jobs for older workers and a young work force that provides a solid tax base adds to the allure. Problems include a lack of recreational and cultural services for older adults and few grocery stores near neighborhoods, as well a high cost of living and high crime rate.
2. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Age 65-79 Rank: 2
Age 80+ Rank: 2
TAKEAWAY: Among the pluses are the highest rate of bank deposits per capita in the group, low cost in-patient care, short emergency room waits and plenty of doctors and nurses. In addition, there are cultural and entertainment venues and abundant public funding for services to keep the elderly engaged. On the negative side, housing is expensive, as are adult day services, and there are not enough grocery stores and other conveniences.
1. Iowa City, Iowa
Age 65-79 Rank: 1