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Best States for Older Adults in 2021

SeniorLiving.org Research | Updated March 15, 2021

In our annual rankings of states for older adults, we've considered fifteen factors that our readers consider crucial to living a long and happy life. These include cost and access to health care, cost of living and tax burden, and lifestyle considerations. While everyone's criteria for where to live is a little different, we've provided all of the data below for your to make your own decisions.

For older adults (or younger ones who want to be prepared), deciding where to spend your golden years is no simple task. For those considering an interstate move and those who hope to age in place, it's helpful to understand the benefits and drawbacks each state offers.

To analyze the states based on which are best for older adults, we studied all 50, comparing them across 15 statistical categories covering things like taxes, income, cost of living, weather, and much more. Jump to the bottom of the page to see our full methodology and sourcing.

Read on for the full study or to check out which states are best in the categories you care most about. But check out some key findings below:

  • Florida is the top overall state, ranking in the top quarter in each of the three major statistical categories we considered. Montana was the lowest-scoring state.
  • Every major region of the country is represented in the top 10 overall states, but more Southern states made the top of the list than any other region.
  • Mississippi and Delaware, third and fourth overall, had two top 10 category finishes, the most of any states.

The Best & Worst States for Older Adults

Top 10 States

  1. Florida
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Mississippi
  4. Delaware
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Maryland
  7. North Dakota
  8. California
  9. North Carolina
  10. South Carolina

Bottom 10 States

  1. Oregon
  2. Kentucky
  3. New Mexico
  4. Kansas
  5. Alaska
  6. West Virginia
  7. Washington
  8. Indiana
  9. Connecticut
  10. Montana

 

State Relative tax burden Rank SSI tax? Monthly ownership costs Rank Annual electricity cost Rank Median income 65+ householder Rank Average annual retirement income 60+ Rank T&F Rank Average monthly Marketplace premium after tax credit Rank % of 65+ with Medicare coverage Rank Active physicians per 100,000 people Rank Nursing and in-home health workers employed per 1,000 ppl 65+ Rank Life expectancy from birth Rank H&M Rank Pop % 50+ Rank Median age Rank Average annual temperature Rank Average cooling degree days Rank Culture Rank Overall Rank
Median 8.5% $969 $1,378 $47,985 $26,194 $ 174 96.5% 263 134 78.9 36.2% 38.8 52 916
Alabama 7.4% 9 No $ 767 4 $ 1,805 48 $ 41,644 45 $ 24,954 34 22 $ 123 9 97.1% 15 217 43 111 41 75.4 48 28 36.9% 18 39.4 19 65 6 1938 22 6 17
Alaska 5.2% 1 No $ 1,230 40 $ 1,527 39 $ 59,826 4 $ 35,634 3 1 $ 174 26 94.9% 43 277 21 171 7 78.1 33 20 31.5% 48 35 49 32 50 46 50 50 45
Arizona 8.3% 20 No $ 939 20 $ 1,513 38 $ 50,260 18 $ 28,469 19 16 $ 195 34 96.5% 25 242 32 108 43 79.5 16 48 35.9% 30 38.3 33 60 11 3100 34 23 40
Arkansas 9.0% 32 No $ 721 2 $ 1,314 22 $ 37,863 49 $ 22,559 47 23 $ 173 25 97.2% 13 208 47 124 34 75.8 44 44 36.1% 27 38.8 26 61 10 1849 28 17 39
California 9.3% 38 No $ 1,522 48 $ 1,223 15 $ 58,371 5 $ 36,499 2 6 $ 168 23 94.3% 48 280 19 176 5 80.9 2 15 33.1% 45 37 43 58 14 1027 37 39 8
Colorado 8.4% 25 Sometimes $ 1,170 39 $ 997 3 $ 56,527 9 $ 31,547 8 17 $ 240 45 95.8% 34 286 16 136 23 80.2 7 40 32.9% 47 37.1 42 45 37 378 4 30 33
Connecticut 10.0% 45 Sometimes $ 1,500 46 $ 1,809 49 $ 58,288 6 $ 31,093 9 48 $ 264 47 94.7% 45 352 6 148 15 80.8 3 26 39.2% 8 41.2 7 50 30 657 10 11 49
Delaware 5.5% 2 No $ 1,010 30 $ 1,430 28 $ 58,054 8 $ 29,180 17 2 $ 202 36 97.7% 5 285 17 130 30 78.6 27 35 39.7% 6 41.4 6 58 15 1218 26 7 4
Florida 6.8% 5 No $ 1,021 32 $ 1,556 41 $ 48,866 24 $ 29,578 14 10 $ 100 5 95.7% 35 265 23 93 49 79.6 13 14 40.8% 5 42.4 5 73 1 3689 9 2 1
Georgia 8.0% 15 No $ 941 21 $ 1,582 42 $ 47,276 29 $ 27,832 21 21 $ 127 12 95.9% 33 229 39 103 47 77.4 39 30 33.1% 46 37.2 40 66 4 1747 38 22 25
Hawaii 11.5% 49 No $ 1,507 47 $ 2,019 50 $ 71,099 1 $ 33,391 5 37 $ 214 39 95.2% 40 314 10 92 50 81.3 1 43 37.6% 14 39.6 17 70 2 4465 3 1 19
Idaho 7.9% 13 No $ 843 12 $ 1,126 5 $ 47,372 27 $ 25,009 33 4 $ 143 15 97.6% 7 193 49 135 25 79.1 22 32 34.1% 43 36.9 45 43 41 553 41 47 31
Illinois 9.6% 42 No $ 1,165 38 $ 1,108 4 $ 49,190 22 $ 30,157 13 15 $ 207 38 95.1% 42 284 18 140 22 79.1 22 33 35.5% 33 38.6 27 52 26 906 17 29 23
Indiana 8.0% 16 No $ 781 6 $ 1,449 33 $ 43,592 39 $ 20,487 49 29 $ 259 46 97.0% 17 231 37 134 26 77.2 41 49 35.3% 35 38 36 52 24 926 14 27 48
Iowa 9.5% 41 No $ 885 16 $ 1,296 19 $ 45,150 35 $ 22,258 48 36 $ 126 11 97.5% 8 218 42 143 18 79.5 16 21 36.6% 24 38.5 29 47 35 837 31 42 30
Kansas 8.8% 31 Sometimes $ 950 23 $ 1,359 23 $ 47,329 28 $ 23,608 42 45 $ 149 17 96.6% 21 228 40 167 10 78.5 28 22 34.9% 38 37.2 40 54 23 1568 16 31 44
Kentucky 8.8% 30 No $ 776 5 $ 1,441 30 $ 40,349 46 $ 25,519 30 24 $ 196 35 97.8% 4 231 36 121 37 75.8 44 46 36.6% 23 39.2 20 58 15 1225 24 18 42
Louisiana 9.2% 37 No $ 811 8 $ 1,448 32 $ 38,662 48 $ 25,917 27 33 $ 182 31 96.0% 32 260 27 141 21 75.6 47 34 34.7% 39 37.7 38 68 3 2728 47 24 37
Maine 10.6% 47 No $ 949 22 $ 1,206 14 $ 43,117 43 $ 26,133 26 34 $ 155 19 96.8% 19 330 7 147 16 79 25 12 43.8% 1 45.1 1 41 45 259 46 25 15
Maryland 9.3% 39 No $ 1,314 43 $ 1,535 40 $ 63,552 2 $ 36,954 1 7 $ 191 32 93.5% 50 386 2 122 36 79.2 20 23 36.3% 25 39 23 57 18 1176 15 15 6
Massachusetts 8.8% 29 No $ 1,552 49 $ 1,511 37 $ 55,593 12 $ 31,712 7 32 $ 204 37 94.4% 46 450 1 202 4 80.4 6 2 37.4% 16 39.7 15 49 31 561 35 37 5
Michigan 8.3% 21 No $ 886 17 $ 1,203 12 $ 46,380 31 $ 23,983 40 14 $ 171 24 97.4% 11 287 15 126 32 78 35 27 38.1% 11 39.8 14 44 39 599 27 38 22
Minnesota 10.2% 46 Yes $ 1,074 33 $ 1,188 11 $ 50,886 15 $ 26,667 23 50 $ 279 49 96.6% 20 303 13 231 1 80.8 3 10 35.9% 31 38.4 31 39 48 497 1 3 35
Mississippi 9.1% 33 No $ 751 3 $ 1,630 46 $ 36,809 50 $ 25,566 29 39 $ 76 1 97.8% 3 191 50 129 31 74.7 50 4 35.2% 36 38.3 33 65 7 2194 21 8 3
Missouri 7.9% 12 Sometimes $ 859 14 $ 1,414 27 $ 43,329 41 $ 24,006 38 43 $ 158 20 97.2% 14 273 22 170 8 77.4 39 17 36.9% 19 38.9 25 55 19 1315 11 16 27
Montana 7.2% 8 Yes $ 958 24 $ 1,145 7 $ 45,579 33 $ 24,560 36 47 $ 174 26 97.7% 6 247 30 114 40 78.9 26 41 39.1% 9 40.5 9 40 47 236 48 46 50
Nebraska 9.1% 35 Sometimes $ 981 27 $ 1,297 20 $ 47,804 26 $ 23,931 41 44 $ 80 3 96.6% 23 239 34 166 11 79.4 19 1 34.3% 41 36.8 46 48 33 1025 39 45 14
Nevada 8.4% 24 No $ 1,006 29 $ 1,282 18 $ 50,448 17 $ 33,206 6 5 $ 152 18 95.3% 39 214 45 94 48 78.1 33 47 34.9% 37 38.4 31 50 28 2204 19 36 34
New Hampshire 6.9% 6 No $ 1,391 44 $ 1,441 29 $ 53,807 13 $ 24,784 35 26 $ 237 44 96.4% 29 315 9 125 33 79.9 10 39 41.5% 3 43 2 43 40 329 7 10 28
New Jersey 9.9% 44 No $ 1,728 50 $ 1,261 17 $ 59,947 3 $ 30,979 10 28 $ 235 43 94.4% 47 307 11 133 27 80.2 7 37 37.3% 17 40.2 10 54 21 929 13 14 29
New Mexico 8.7% 27 Yes $ 810 7 $ 960 2 $ 43,126 42 $ 30,589 11 41 $ 174 26 96.3% 30 245 31 145 17 77.8 37 29 36.6% 22 38.6 27 54 20 1082 30 26 43
New York 12.3% 50 No $ 1,469 45 $ 1,243 16 $ 49,898 20 $ 30,367 12 42 $ 224 41 94.8% 44 375 3 220 2 80.5 5 5 36.9% 20 39.2 20 45 38 669 8 32 13
North Carolina 8.2% 18 No $ 858 13 $ 1,479 36 $ 43,986 38 $ 24,330 37 27 $ 114 6 97.0% 16 255 28 130 29 77.9 36 13 36.0% 29 39.1 22 61 9 1489 24 13 9
North Dakota 8.1% 17 No $ 960 25 $ 1,371 25 $ 46,816 30 $ 23,460 44 30 $ 165 22 96.5% 26 238 35 204 3 79.8 12 11 33.3% 44 35.5 47 38 49 481 2 12 7
Ohio 9.3% 39 No $ 864 15 $ 1,298 21 $ 44,260 37 $ 26,254 25 20 $ 234 42 96.6% 22 293 14 143 19 77.5 38 36 37.5% 15 39.6 17 52 24 802 40 33 36
Oklahoma 6.9% 7 No $ 817 10 $ 1,367 24 $ 43,501 40 $ 22,929 46 11 $ 77 2 96.2% 31 207 48 109 42 75.7 46 6 34.1% 42 37 43 60 12 2085 29 28 2
Oregon 8.3% 23 No $ 1,154 37 $ 1,204 13 $ 50,449 16 $ 28,725 18 13 $ 222 40 96.5% 27 303 12 108 45 79.5 16 42 36.8% 21 39.7 15 47 34 275 36 41 41
Pennsylvania 8.5% 26 No $ 1,006 28 $ 1,386 26 $ 45,476 34 $ 24,000 39 38 $ 193 33 96.6% 24 321 8 174 6 78.5 28 16 39.3% 7 40.8 8 50 28 738 5 5 12
Rhode Island 9.8% 43 Sometimes $ 1,287 42 $ 1,459 34 $ 49,749 21 $ 27,817 22 49 $ 174 26 95.4% 38 370 4 161 13 79.6 13 8 38.7% 10 40.1 11 51 27 609 23 21 38
South Carolina 7.5% 10 No $ 811 9 $ 1,737 47 $ 45,115 36 $ 25,777 28 18 $ 116 7 97.3% 12 230 38 106 46 76.8 42 24 37.8% 13 39.9 12 65 8 1963 18 4 10
South Dakota 7.9% 11 No $ 931 19 $ 1,447 31 $ 47,985 25 $ 25,295 31 19 $ 137 13 96.5% 28 240 33 153 14 79.1 22 19 36.1% 28 37.7 38 42 42 725 6 34 16
Tennessee 6.2% 3 No $ 826 11 $ 1,588 43 $ 42,853 44 $ 23,163 45 12 $ 141 14 97.0% 18 253 29 108 44 76.1 43 31 36.2% 26 39 23 60 13 1406 32 20 20
Texas 8.2% 19 No $ 1,101 34 $ 1,609 44 $ 48,919 23 $ 27,894 20 35 $ 118 8 94.1% 49 225 41 166 12 78.5 28 9 30.1% 49 35.1 48 66 5 2959 44 40 18
Utah 8.8% 28 Yes $ 1,018 31 $ 908 1 $ 58,099 7 $ 29,339 15 40 $ 82 4 95.2% 41 216 44 136 24 79.6 13 3 25.5% 50 31.2 50 48 32 545 42 49 26
Vermont 10.7% 48 Sometimes $ 1,137 36 $ 1,166 10 $ 51,569 14 $ 25,283 32 46 $ 148 16 97.4% 9 367 5 142 20 79.9 10 7 41.9% 2 42.8 4 42 44 263 43 35 32
Virginia 7.9% 13 No $ 1,135 35 $ 1,626 45 $ 56,069 10 $ 34,809 4 9 $ 175 30 95.6% 36 263 26 119 38 79.2 20 38 35.5% 34 38.5 29 58 15 1141 20 19 21
Washington 8.3% 22 No $ 1,278 41 $ 1,134 6 $ 55,889 11 $ 29,314 16 8 $ 286 50 95.5% 37 279 20 132 28 80.2 7 45 34.5% 40 37.9 37 47 36 219 49 48 47
West Virginia 9.1% 33 No* $ 687 1 $ 1,463 35 $ 39,680 47 $ 20,005 50 31 $ 265 48 98.0% 2 263 25 119 39 75.3 49 50 41.2% 4 42.9 3 54 22 810 33 9 46
Wisconsin 9.1% 36 No $ 979 26 $ 1,146 8 $ 45,861 32 $ 23,581 43 25 $ 161 21 97.4% 10 265 24 167 9 78.4 31 18 38.1% 12 39.9 12 42 43 533 45 44 24
Wyoming 6.5% 4 No $ 918 18 $ 1,158 9 $ 50,260 18 $ 26,455 24 3 $ 125 10 98.2% 1 208 46 124 35 78.4 31 25 35.9% 32 38.1 35 40 46 318 12 43 11
* Starting in 2022

Conclusion

According to the most recent census data, less than two percent of people retire to a state other than the one they already live in. But for those who are considering a move, exploring data like the one in this analysis can help point you in the direction of a state that will help ensure your golden years are exactly that.

Methodology

We compared the states across dozens of categories, narrowing down the list of ranking factors to 15. For each category, we calculated a median value that was then compared to each state's result in each category. The result was a point value representing each state's relative performance in each category. A figure below 1 means a state had a worse-than-median result.

The lone exception to this method of comparison was the category covering how many hot weather days each state has. Because of the enormous variation in climate across the country, it was necessary to compare the states to others of similar geography. So in that category, each state's points were based on how much warmer its weather is compared to states with similar numbers of hot days.

Here's a look at the categories that made the cut, what each one measures, and how they played into each state's score.

Tax & Finances

The data points in this category account for about 40 percent of each state's total score, making it the most heavily weighted category that we considered.

  • Relative tax burden: A percentage that combines property tax, individual income tax, and sales and excise taxes as a percentage of personal income. The most recent year for the combined rates is 2019.
  • Tax on Social Security benefits: A measure of whether a state taxes Social Security income; states that don't tax this type of income received one point, states that do tax this type of income received zero points, and those that tax some but not all people with this type of income received half a point. The most recent year for this information is 2020, but West Virginia received a point because lawmakers are phasing out a state income tax on benefits beginning in 2022.
  • Monthly housing costs: A dollar amount that represents the average monthly ownership cost for mortgaged and non-mortgaged housing units. This is a U.S. Census Bureau figure that includes taxes, loans, insurance, and other housing costs. The most recent year for this data is 2019.
  • Annual electricity cost: A dollar amount that represents the average annual cost for residential electric bills per state based on data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The most recent year for this data is 2019.
  • Median income, 65-plus: The median annual household income in households led by those 65 and older, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. The most recent year for this data is 2019.
  • Average annual retirement income: The mean amount of retirement income per household with retirement income, which is defined as distributions from pension, 401(k), and IRA plans. The data is published annually by the U.S. Census Bureau, and 2019 is the most recent year with available figures.

Health & Medicine

This category accounted for about 33 percent of the total score, making it the second-weightiest category.

  • Average Marketplace premium: A dollar figure that represents what the average beneficiary pays after income tax credits for a Marketplace healthcare plan per month. For every state but Idaho, this data was reported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services; Idaho's data was not reported, so an average from the surrounding states was imputed. The most recent year for this data is 2019.
  • Percentage of 65-plus with Medicare coverage: A percentage of each state's population of residents 65 and older who have Medicare coverage. This is a U.S. Census Bureau figure, most recently reported for 2019.
  • Active physicians per 100,000 people: The number of doctors employed per 100,000 people living in each state. This figure is from an annual study published by the Association of American Medical Colleges, mostly recently in 2019.
  • Nursing and in-home health workers per 1,000 older adults: The number of nursing care and in-home health care workers employed per 1,000 older adults in each state. This is a calculation of employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau; the most recent year for both elements was 2019.
  • Life expectancy from birth: The estimated number of years a person is expected to live from their birth. This data is based on an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2019.

Culture & Lifestyle

These data points accounted for a combined 26 percent of each state's overall score.

  • Population 50 and older: The percentage of people in each state who are over 50 years of age; this is data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and 2019 is the most recent year with available data.
  • Median age: The median age of each state's residents. This U.S. Census Bureau data was most recently published for 2019.
  • Average annual temperature: The overall average temperature in each state for 2019, as published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • Average cooling degree days: An average of the annual number of cooling degree days per state between 2011 and 2015, as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A cooling degree day is a measurement of the temperature difference between the high on a given day and 65 degrees; for example, if an area hits 95 degrees, that equates to 30 cooling degree days. For Alaska, the base temperature used in the calculation was 60, and data for both Alaska and Hawaii was an average of all available data, covering 1949 to 2012 due to limitations in decompiled data for those two states.