Depending on where you choose to retire, you might have an easy time of it — or find that you’ve chosen the wrong place in which to grow old.
To make your (future) life easier, you might want to have a look at senior care resource Caring.com’s evaluations of the best and worst states in which to grow old. Caring.com evaluated all 50 states specifically with an eye toward the factors that make a state a healthy, affordable environment for the elderly.
Even if you’re reluctant to think of yourself as becoming elderly, there’s no denying that some places offer more options as you age than others. And among the factors Caring.com examined are affordability, quality health care access, long-term care options, senior care services, and overall quality of life.
And while there are plenty of “where to retire” lists available, Caring.com says, its study “incorporated statistics on senior living community reviews, nursing home costs, in-home care prices, elderly well-being assessments and more.”
Instead of focusing on factors that would appeal to active seniors, such as states that offer “hiking, golfing and traveling,” it adds, “this analysis centered on America’s rapidly growing elderly population and the medical and financial supports it requires in order to thrive.”
After considering a range of inputs that included reviews of senior care facilities, it also used data from Genworth’s 2016 Cost of Care Survey, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and the Long-Term Services & Supports State Scorecard, which is a joint effort between AARP, The Commonwealth Fund, and the SCAN Foundation. States were evaluated in 13 financial, healthcare and quality of life categories focused on senior care.
Then Caring.com ranked each state in three basic categories, based on how it performed when all factors were considered: overall rank, quality of life rank and cost rank.
The results are below, with the five best and five worst states in which to grow old:
5 best states in which to grow old
In fifth place overall, Nebraska placed 14th for quality of life and health careand 20th for cost—not great, but not terrible.
Care here will run you right around the national median for cost; an assisted living facility in Nebraska comes in at around $42,000.
The cost of a home health aide, however, is about $53,700, which is about $7,000 more than the national median.
Washington came in fourth overall, and in first place for quality of life—no small feat. However, it does have a little problem when it comes to cost: the state only ranked 38th in the country.
In fact that drawback is why the state didn’t come out higher—the cost of senior care is high here.
It may be fourth overall, but it’s the 13th most expensive state in the survey. The median annual cost of assisted living is about $54,000, which is about $10,000 more than the national median.
In addition, a home health aide here will cost you about $56,800; that too is about $10,000 more expensive than the national median.
3. South Carolina
Third on the list is South Carolina, which doesn’t do fantastically well on quality of life—in 22nd place—but does quite a bit better on cost, in sixth place.
And while it has plenty to recommend it from a tourist point of view, its affordability gives it an advantage for seniors.
It’s the only southern state to make it into the top 10, thanks to being the sixth most affordable state for elder care.
The median annual cost of assisted living is $36,000, which is nearly $8,000 cheaper than the national median. In addition, here a home health aide costs about $42,000 for the year; that’s about $4,000 cheaper than the national median.
Coming in second, Iowa boasts a quality of life rank of 8 and a cost rank of 17—not cheap, but not eye-wateringly expensive, either.
What it does have is wide access to high-quality senior care options and a modest cost of living, says the report, and it also ranked 8th for health care; no small feat.
The state came in within the top 20 for senior care costs, and is close to the national median. The report points out an example: a private one-bedroom in an assisted living community in Iowa will cost around $42,210 per year on average, more than $1,000 less than the national average.
Coming in in the top slot for best place to grow old, Utah scored seventh for quality of life and health care and 14th for cost.
The report says, “Elderly Utah residents have access to high-quality care that’s far below the national median. (Utah’s seniors pay about $35,000 annually for assisted living and about $48,000 a year for a home health aide).”
5 worst states in which to grow old
Wyoming ranked 46th in the nation overall, but did rise a hair in quality of life—it placed 38th—and a tad more in cost, in 32nd place.
It’s very expensive in senior home care services, though, at $59,484 on average a year, despite being relatively affordable for other costs.
The state’s so low on the list mostly because it’s dead last in the rankings on Caring.com reviews, and residents report not being satisfied with their social life.
It also came in 40th in the rankings for whether people were generally healthy.
4. North Dakota
In 47th place overall, North Dakota did a little better for quality of life, coming in in 30th place.
But for cost, it sank back down, coming in in 45th place. In fact, nursing home costs are pretty high, with private rooms running a median $129,276 per year.
It ranked last for senior home care costs of services or home health aides at $63,972 a year.
The good news? Older people reported good overall well-being, and the state even topped the list of all 50 states for financial well-being. People also reported enjoying their community and what they did every day, though the state scored poorly for having a rewarding social life.
3. New York
New York placed 48th overall and 34th in quality of life. As for cost, the Empire State pretty much scraped the bottom of the barrel at 46th place.
You want to talk eye-wateringly expensive? Senior care, as you might expect, is expensive in New York, including day care, assisted living facilities and especially nursing homes, which can cost $135,960 or more.
But that’s not all; you don’t even get what you pay for. Facilities ranked second-to-last in Caring.com reviews.
And while seniors reported having generally good health, New York ranked poorly in all other well being categories, including having a sense of purpose and community and financial health.
Indiana ranked 49th overall and 48th for quality of life, and wasn’t even redeemed much by its cost ranking of 29.
It may not be all that expensive here, but older Indianans reported that their general well-being wasn’t great, including ranking very poorly in the categories of physical health and having a sense of community.
They did, however, report good financial well-being—possibly because of the general low cost of care, particularly for home health aides and homemaker services.
1. West Virginia
Not only did West Virginia come in at the very bottom overall of all 50 states, it also got a bottom-place ranking for quality of life.
In cost it fared far better, coming in at 13, but that doesn’t help much if all the other factors aren’t there.
Do not put this state at the top of your list unless you don’t care about anything but money. Although the state ranked second in costs for homemaker services and home health aides and sixth for adult day health care, that doesn’t make up for coming in 42nd in Caring.com reviews and dead last in general well-being.
The state’s older residents reported having poor well-being in every category, including coming in last in physical health, having a sense of purpose, and having a decent social life.