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Best Cities for Senior Living 2012

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonAugust 20, 2012

A non-partisan think tank has ranked the best cities for successful aging, for adults age 65 to 79 as well as seniors age 80 and up. How does your city measure up?

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Though there are quite a few lists out there of “best places to retire,” a new study by the Milken Institute is ranking the best cities for senior-friendly living according to the criteria that matter most to quality of life. Factors such as safety, affordability, accessibility, transportation, community engagement, and housing options played a part in the study as well as traditional factors like weather, health care and crime rates.

When they crunched the numbers, there were a few surprises—it turns out that nice weather isn’t always the most important feature of senior-friendly communities. Not only that, which factors are important depends on which age group you look at. Availability of work, for instance, is more important to the 65-79 age group than the 80+ demographic.

Overall Rankings for Best Senior-Friendly Cities

When you look at the top cities for senior-friendly living, it’s pretty clear that sunshine and palm trees aren’t the main consideration. Why not? It has to do with what the Milken Institute calls “successful aging:” the ability to live in safe, comfortable, affordable places; the right to be healthy, happy and financially secure; the right to have living arrangements and transportation access that suits the needs of seniors; and the right to live in a community that affords respect, enrichment, and connection.

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With these priorities in mind, the study ranked 359 U.S. metropolitan areas. Here are the top five scorers in both the large metro and small metro categories:

Large Metro:

  1. Provo, UT
  2. Madison, WI
  3. Omaha, NE
  4. Boston, MA
  5. New York, NY

Small Metro:

  1. Sioux Falls, SD
  2. Iowa City, IA
  3. Bismarck, ND
  4. Columbia, MO
  5. Rochester, MN

Fun Facts: Provo, Utah offers the fewest fast-food outlets per capita and three magnet hospitals, while Sioux Falls, SD has the highest senior employment rate of the 259 small cities surveyed. Most of the high-scoring cities have universities, too, which tend to offer perks like arts and entertainment facilities, transit programs, and reputable hospitals.

Best Senior Living for Adults Aged 80 and Up

The picture changes when you look at the data for seniors above age 80, particularly with respect to large metropolitan areas. For our aging loved ones, factors such as cost of living, availability of geriatric health care and number of assisted living communities come to the forefront.

Large Metro:

  1. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
  2. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
  3. Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA
  4. Madison, WI
  5. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA

Small Metro:

  1. Iowa City, IA
  2. Sioux Falls, SD
  3. Bismarck, ND
  4. Rochester, MN
  5. Columbia, MO

Encouraging Improvements in Senior Living

Paul Irving, senior managing director and chief operating officer of the Milken Institute and leader of the Institute’s Aging Populations Initiative, is optimistic that the study’s results will encourage U.S. cities to better serve their elderly population.

“We hope the findings spark national discussion and, at the local level, generate virtuous competition among cities to galvanize improvement in the social structures that serve seniors,” he said.

Sarah Stevenson
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Sarah Stevenson
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