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October 7, 2019

Map: The best (and worst) states for aging, according to US News

Daily Briefing

    U.S. News & World Report last week released its Best States for Aging list, which ranks all 50 states on how they address the needs of older adults, and Maine ranked No. 1.

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    How US News ranked states

    Seniors today account for almost 25% of the United States' population, according to U.S. News, and that population is likely to grow as more baby boomers age into their elder years. With its Best States for Aging ranking, U.S. News "determines which states are most effectively serving their senior citizens by keeping them healthy, financially secure and involved in their communities."

    For the ranking, U.S. News evaluated how all 50 states performed on 12 metrics related to quality of life for older Americans. Those metrics included:

    • Life expectancy at age 65;
    • The share of adults 65 and older who report at least "good" health;
    • The share of adults 65 and older who report no physical activity during leisure time;
    • The share of adults 65 and older who report no mental distress;
    • The share of adults 65 and older who are able-bodied, without cognitive, visual, auditory, ambulatory, or self-care disability, or a disability that makes independent living difficult;
    • The quality of Medicare Advantage programs;
    • Unemployment among adults 65 and older;
    • The share of adults who have a dedicated primary care physician;
    • Average costs for assisted living and care;
    • The share of nursing homes designated as a "Best Nursing Home" in U.S. News rankings;
    • The share of the population that is 65 or older; and
    • Cost of living.

    U.S. News gauged states' performance on some of the metrics based on data from the United Health Foundation. The Daily Briefing is published by Advisory Board, a division of Optum, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth Group established the United Health Foundation as a not-for-profit, private foundation.

    The highest- and lowest-ranked states

    Here's how states fared in U.S. News' rankings:

    Based on the criteria, U.S. News determined that the best states for aging, after Maine, are:

    1. Wisconsin;
    2. Minnesota;
    3. Colorado; and
    4. Hawaii.

    According to U.S. News, Maine took the top spot partly because it has one of the highest population of seniors in the country at 21%. Other factors that led to Maine coming in at the top include good scores in nursing home quality, enrollment in quality Medicare plans, and access to primary care.

    Wisconsin and Minnesota came in second and third place respectively, both scoring well in health, nursing home quality, and percentage of able-bodied older adults.

    On the other end of the spectrum, U.S. News determined that the five worst states for aging are:

    1. Oklahoma;
    2. Texas;
    3. West Virginia;
    4. Mississippi; and
    5. Kentucky.

    Kentucky, the lowest-ranked state, ranked last on physical activity and second-to last on health and mental distress. However, cost of care ranked significantly better, at 14, while the state ranked 13 for cost of living (U.S. News & World Report list, accessed 10/4; Soergel, U.S. News & World Report, 9/30). 

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