Written by Stannah at 02/19/2019

The Senior-Friendly Index 2019: Every US state ranked

Senior Friendly USA

When it comes to deciding where to spend your golden years in the US, you’re spoilt for choice. There are, after all, 50 inimitable states to choose from, each as distinct as the next. Picking one to settle down in and call home is no easy task – especially in later life. You have to then ask, is it even worth moving at all? Are you not better off staying where you are?

Well, we’re here to help shine some light on this. We’ve crunched some numbers and put together a definitive list of the most senior-friendly states in the US, taking into consideration key factors that are important to Americans over the age of 55. These include:

Finance

  • Retirement benefit taxability
  • Tax exemptions on social security
  • The cost of a number of assisted living situations
  • The cost of living
  • Median house prices
  • Sales and property tax

Social life and accessibility

  • Distance to supermarkets
  • Public transit
  • Libraries
  • National parks
  • Free education for seniors
  • Senior centers

Environment

  • Average annual temperature
  • Air and water quality
  • Health risks from pollution
  • Average rainfall and snow days
  • Risk of natural disasters, including tornados,
    wildfires, floods and earthquakes

Health and safety

  • Burglary and property crime rates
  • Violent crime incidents per year
  • Average age of life expectancy
  • The number of staffed hospital beds

We also surveyed 2,009 senior citizens in the US, providing us with further insight into some of the key expectations this demographic has when it comes to where they want to live, as well as what they want from their existing or new community. Here are some of our key findings.

What over 55s want in their state

When it comes to moving to a different city, state or country, the main motivation for people over the age of 55 is to save money and improve finances, our survey found.

For example, 37% of respondents said they would relocate to reduce their cost of living, while 57% stated that low house prices would be an important factor when choosing a location. A further 48% said that finding somewhere with low taxes would be their priority.

Improved weather conditions was another deciding factor (52%), along with low crime rates (50%) and senior centers and programs (48%) that encouraged involvement in and with the community.

Home or away?

Although moving to a different city or state has its advantages for some senior citizens, 35% of over 55s would rather make modifications to stay in their current home, as it holds happy memories for them (43%). Other reasons for not relocating include staying close to family (42%) and remaining part of the community (40%).

Home adaptations can help people to live independently and make their home work for them if their mobility becomes restricted. A quarter (25%) said that they would be willing to spend $1,000–$5,000 on such home modifications rather than move to a new house.

These improvements include a walk-in tub (40%), a call-alert system in case of a fall (39%), a more accessible bathroom (25%), and ramps instead of exterior stairs (23%).

Introducing the most senior-friendly state

The state with the best overall score was Florida, which scored highly across social life, accessibility and environment categories. It’s unsurprising really, as the state is famous for its amazing weather, beautiful beaches and culturally rich cities.

In fact, 37% of respondents already assumed that Florida was the most senior-friendly state in the country. They’ll also be pleased to hear that The Sunshine State scored well for finance, too, with seniors being exempt from taxes on social security retirement benefits and pension income.

The rest of the top 10 consisted of other eastern states, including, in order, New York, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Louisiana, South Carolina, and New Jersey.

The least senior-friendly state

Out of all 50 states, Alaska had the lowest overall score. Despite its low crime rate and low natural disaster rate, The Last Frontier, as it’s known, has some of the highest taxes in the US, as well as the poorest drinking water quality score, leading to its low ranking for senior-citizen friendliness.

The weather is much more extreme here, too, with an average of 66 snow days per year. Situated in the northwesternmost corner of North America, it is best known for its open spaces, mountains and small towns, and is also a popular place for outdoor sports like skiing and mountain biking.

But, ultimately, it may not be best suited to senior citizens who are looking for altogether warmer climates and a slower pace of life. Additionally, only 0.4% of those surveyed believed Alaska was the most senior-friendly state.

The rest of the bottom 10 was made up of states from all across the US, including Vermont, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, California, Oregon, Arizona, Nebraska, Colorado, and Washington.

For all sources and research information please visit our methodology and sources page.