Not all states are created equal when it comes to growing old, and some places in the U.S. may be better equipped — socially, economically, and even physically — to care for its aging population.
A survey conducted by Caring reviewed senior care facilities in all 50 states as well as cost of care surveys and the Long-Term Services & Supports State Scorecard to find out where the best places for seniors are — and not in terms of retirement, but for long-term care through their 70s, 80s and beyond.
The survey highlights two main categories: quality of life and cost. No one state ranks in the top ten in both — and interestingly enough, no state in the top five of quality of life ranks higher than 39th in terms of cost. Alaska, for example, ranks a surprising second in quality of life, but 50th in cost. The same holds true for the reverse: states such as Alabama and Louisiana, which rank one and two, respectively, for costs both rank in the bottom ten for quality of life.
The best states to grow old in hit a sort of balance between the two.
While no state ranks in the top ten in both quality of life and cost metrics, Utah comes the closest. Utah ranks seventh in quality of life, boosted by its effective nursing home transitioning, but lost some ranking due to lack of choice in long-term care facilities. The Beehive State ranked 14th in costs, a number good enough to help Utah solidify itself as one of the top states to grow old in.
While not ranking among the top ten in cost, the Hawkeye State comes in at a respectable 17th, which puts it near the national median; a private one-bedroom in an assisted living facility costs $42,000, the same as the national median. Iowa, however, distinguishes itself in the area of quality of life, ranking eighth in the country.
3. South Carolina
South Carolina has made it into the top ten for the opposite reason as Iowa and Utah: the state ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to quality of life at 22nd — it ranks among the bottom ten in terms of setting and provider choice — but ranks sixth in terms of cost. Seniors pay around $36,000 annually for assisted living facilities and about $42,000 for a home health aide.
Washington has a strong showing in the measure of quality of life, ranking first in the nation. That kind of quality care, however, does not come cheap: in the Evergreen State, a private one-bedroom room in an assisted living facility costs around $54,000; a home health aide costs over $56,000. Even with those high numbers, Washington ranks 38th in terms of cost, respectable enough to make into the top ten.
The Cornhusker State strikes a great balance between quality of care and cost of care, which is why it has landed in fifth among the best states to grow old in. Nebraska ranks 14th, in terms of quality of care, while ranking 20th in terms of cost — an assisted living facility costs a little less than the national median, but home health aides cost 16 percent more than the national median at nearly $54,000. If it were not for the high cost of home health aides in the state, Nebraska would have performed even better in the survey.
The sunshine is not the only thing that makes Arizona a popular place to retire in. Arizona ranks 11th in quality of life and 23rd in costs — again balancing the two categories to place it squarely in the middle. Besides the great weather and high quality of life, growing older in Arizona costs at or near the national median.
Growing old in the Golden State has its perks, especially when it comes to overall quality of life. Great weather and a diverse collection of cities and areas for seniors to live in help attract many people to the state — no matter the cost, apparently as California ranks in the top ten despite higher than average costs. Assisted living costs about $48,000 per year, while a home health aide will cost around $55,000 per year — but these price tags may be worth the cost for the high quality of care, especially in terms of setting and provider choice and support for family caregivers, according to its State Scorecard.
Idaho also struck a nice balance in the survey. The Gem State ranks 15th in terms of quality of life and 23rd in costs. The cost of assisted living, according to the Cost of Care survey, was just $38,400, a few thousands lower than the national median, and the cost of a home health aide was just over $45,000. In terms of its quality of care, it ranks well in effective transitions and choice of setting and provider.
Colorado is yet another state that boasts a great quality of life ranking but a less-than-great cost ranking. Colorado ranks eighth in terms of quality of life — and second in terms of family caregiver support — but 32nd in terms of cost, with the average assisted living facility costing $48,000 and a home health aide costing $55,000 annually. High-quality care does come with a price, and Colorado is a prime example.
Just like its northern and southern neighbors Washington and California, Oregon does very well when it comes to quality of care, and it still cracks the top ten despite higher than average costs. Oregon tied California for third when it came to quality of care, but ranked 39th in costs. Oregon shines in family caregiver support, ranking first in the country, as well as effective transitions for seniors. If it were not for the costs — assisted living costs nearly $49,000, and home health aides cost over $52,000 — Oregon would surely rank higher in the country. Still, Oregon’s quality of life make it a strong state for older Americans to age in.