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Safest Cities for Senior Housing That Won't Break the Bank

Ben Hanowell
By Ben HanowellJanuary 4, 2017

No family wants to live in an undesirable neighborhood just to pay a lower price for senior housing and care. To help families find the best neighborhoods for senior living communities for their loved ones, we use FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data to find the safest cities with reasonable senior living prices.

Combining our Senior Living Cost Index with FBI Uniform Crime Reporting, we show families:

  • The most affordable low-crime cities for senior housing
  • The least affordable high-crime cities for senior housing
  • Cities with the best balance of safety and senior housing affordability
  • An interactive map to help you find the safest cities with the best senior housing costs near you

Here’s what we found:

  • Cities with low crime rates and low senior housing costs tend to be in smaller, less densely populated cities, especially in the South and Midwest
  • Those cities also tend to offer the best balance of safety and senior housing affordability
  • On the other hand, cities with high crime rates and the highest senior housing costs are in densely populated urban areas, especially on the West Coast
  • For the vast majority of cities where senior living communities are located, there is either no clear crime trend or crime rates have fallen over the last six years

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Public Safety in Perspective

Before we show you the safest cities with the best senior housing costs, there are a few things you should keep in mind.


Violent Crime and Property Crime Should Be Measured Separately

When comparing crime rates at the city level, it’s important to distinguish between violent crime and property crime. Violent crime includes crime such as robbery and aggravated assault. Property crime includes crime such as burglary, larceny theft and motor vehicle theft. A city may have a low property crime rate but a high violent crime rate, and vice versa.

Just Because Crime Rates Are Higher in Big Cities Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Desirable

We found that the least affordable senior living in cities with high crime rates is in large, densley populated urban areas. Crime is higher in these areas, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live there. For one, senior living communities are secure buildings, often with a dedicated security staff. More importantly, large urban areas tend to have a greater diversity of neighborhood amenities and services. Finally, you may just like living in the city, and that’s fine.

Despite What You May Have Heard, Crime Is NOT on the Rise

Many Americans believe that crime is getting worse. The chart below — taken from a Pew Research analysis of Gallup survey data — shows that public perception about crime doesn’t match up with reality. In most years since 1993, the majority of Americans believed that crime got worse compared to the year before. Happily, they were usually wrong. A Place for Mom independently analyzed FBI crime report data from over 300 cities between 2009 and 2015. For the vast majority of cities where senior living communities are located, there is either no clear trend or crime rates have fallen.

It’s Irresponsible to Rank Cities by Crime Rates Alone

We will not rank cities by their crime rates alone because the FBI and other law enforcement agencies strongly advise against it. Instead, we’ll rank cities based on their senior housing costs given their level of crime (i.e., low, medium, or high). We’ll also rank cities by the balance they strike between low violent crime, low property crime, and low senior housing costs.

The Safest Cities with the Lowest Senior Housing Costs

Below are the ten cities with the lowest senior housing costs that also have low property crime and violent crime rates. Mostly in the South and Midwest, these cities tend to have smaller populations below 60,000 people. More importantly, they have low population density. Cities with lower population density tend to have lower crime rates. At the same time, smaller cities in the South and Midwest tend to have lower cost of living. Put those two things together and you get safe cities with low senior housing costs.

10 Most Affordable Cities With Low Crime Rates

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The Least Safe Cities With the Highest Senior Housing Costs

Below are the ten cities with the highest senior housing costs that also have high violent and property crime rates. As you might expect, these tend to be densely populated urban areas. Although these areas have higher crime rates, they also have higher cost of living, especially on the West Coast. If you must have the jet-setting city life, move in understanding its costs both in terms of rent and somewhat higher personal safety risk as you’re out and about.

10 Least Affordable Cities With High Crime Rates

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Balancing Safety and Senior Housing Affordability

Where will you get the best balance of safety and affordability? We combined violent crime rates, property crime rates, and our Senior Living Cost Index into a single score between 0 and 100 that measures the balance between public safety and senior housing affordability. The higher the score, the better the balance.

Below, we rank cities by their balance score. Notice how most of the top ten most balanced cities have reappeared from the list of the safest cities with the most affordable senior housing. Among the most balanced are the twin cities of Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia, both small, sparsely populated cities in the South.

Average Senior Housing Costs and Safety / Budget Balance for 332 Cities

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The least balanced city is Los Angeles, California, a densely populated California megacity with rapidly rising cost of living and monthly senior living costs over $3,800 per month. Yet a city can be unbalanced even if it has relatively low senior housing costs. A good example is Detroit, Michigan, known for its high violent crime rate, but less known for its affordable senior housing at around $2,900 per month.

Find the Safest City Near You With the Best Senior Housing Costs

Maybe you don’t want to move to Bristol, Tennessee or Virginia for that matter. Maybe you’re looking for reasonably priced senior living in a safe city close to home. We built a map to help you do that.

Map of Senior Housing Costs and Crime Rates

  • Circles mark cities where we had data on both senior housing costs and crime rates
  • The bigger the circle, the more affordable the senior housing costs
  • The bluer the circle, the lower both the violent crime and property crime rates
  • Tap on a circle to see its senior housing costs and crime rates

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The Takeaway

You don’t need to sacrifice safety to find senior housing within your budget. If living in a city with low crime rates and low senior housing costs is paramount, consider a smaller, less densely populated city in the South or Midwest. If you want to strike a balance closer to home, use our interactive map to find a safe city with reasonable senior housing prices near you.

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Estimating Senior Housing Costs

Senior housing cost estimates come from our Senior Living Cost Index.

Defining Crime Level

To define low, medium, and high levels of violent and property crime, respectively, we split cities up by tercile. A tercile splits data into three equal-sized groups based on the value of the target metric.

Balancing Safety and Price

We took the following steps to score each city on its balance of safety and price:

  1. For each city, compute its percentile rank for violent crime rate, property crime rate, and median senior housing cost (averaged across care types)
  2. For each quantile computed in step one, subtract it from one
  3. Take the product of the quantile complements computed in step two
  4. Take the quantile of the product computed in step three
  5. Multiply the quantile in step four by 100

The higher the score computed in step five, the better the balance of safety and price.

Detecting Trends in City-Level Crime Rates

To detect trends in city-level crime rates, we performed separate linear regressions of annual violent and property crime rates against time for each city with crime data in all years between 2009 and 2015. To cope with the multiple comparisons problem, we adjusted the statistical significance figures (i.e., p-values) of the time coefficient using the Benjamini-Hochberg procedure, setting a five-percent alpha level.

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Ben Hanowell
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Ben Hanowell
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