The 10 Best States to Grow Old in, 2016 Study

When you picture the place where you’ll live out your golden years, what do you see? For many people, it’s a family home with plenty of relatives and friends living close by. For others, it may be a far-flung destination they’ve long dreamed of retiring in.

Whether or not you plan to stay in your current state of residence or relocate, there are some important considerations to take into account.

While proximity of family and friends is the top factor when deciding where to live in your later years, things such as access to quality healthcare, the cost of senior care and support for seniors in a given area are also important to consider.

These types of considerations are especially key when deciding where to live in your late 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond, as more and more people now do, says Sara Zeff Geber, Ph. D, an author and retirement planning expert.

“At that age, we really need to start thinking about someplace that’s stable, someplace that’s safe and someplace that we can afford,” she says. “Those things don’t always add up to the Sun Belt.”’s own research found that the states that offer the best mix of quality healthcare, long-term care, affordability and selection of senior care and overall quality of life aren’t always found in the typical retirement destinations like Florida or Arizona. In fact, the states that offer ideal conditions for those 55 and older will probably surprise you.

We assembled these ratings by incorporating data on quality of life in a given area for residents over 55, quality of healthcare, long-term care, support for seniors and family caregivers, affordability of senior care and more than 100,000 ratings of senior care providers in each state. Sources included Genworth’s 2015 Cost of Care Survey, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and the Long-term Scorecard, a joint effort by AARP, The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation.

1. South Dakota

The land of Mount Rushmore, sweeping prairielands, buffalo, and just over 853,000 residents is the best state to grow old, outranking all other states on a combination of quality of life, healthcare and financial categories.

Seniors in South Dakota have access to high-quality healthcare and senior care, with costs of care hovering around the national average (about $36,000 yearly for an assisted living community, and around $52,000 for a home health aide).

In addition to financial considerations, our survey incorporated The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which measures purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being. As of 2015, the Mount Rushmore State boasted one of the highest combined rankings in these categories for residents 55 and older.

2. Iowa

Known for its endless cornfields, rolling plains and location at the heart of the Midwest, Iowa is the second-best state to spend your golden years. Like South Dakota, the Hawkeye State is far from the typical Sun Belt retirement destinations.

Also like South Dakota, senior care costs here are around the national average.

But the state ranked among the top 10 in the nation for quality of life and healthcare for residents over 55.

3. Minnesota

Sharing a border with Canada, it may be one of the coldest spots in the union, but it turns out, Minnesota is also one of the best states to grow old.

Compared to the first two states on the list, senior care in Minnesota is pricier (an assisted living facility costs roughly $42,000 per year on average, while a home health aide runs about $57,000).

Still, the state ranked especially high (#3) in quality of health care and overall quality of life for seniors.

4. Alaska

The “Last Frontier” is also one of the best places to spend your later years, according to our research.

Of all 50 states, Alaska topped the list for quality of life and health care, and also ranked very high for quality and access to long-term care services and supports for seniors.

At the same time, the state is also home to the most expensive senior care in the nation (a year in a nursing home costs a whopping $281,000 on average and assisted living runs more than $68,000 yearly), dragging its overall ranking down to the fourth spot.

5. Oregon

According to one highly cited study, Oregon was the most popular state to move to in 2015. And our research shows, there’s good reason for people 55 and older to jump on the Oregon-bound bandwagon.

The state ranked fourth in the quality of life and healthcare studies and also very high in long-term care and supports for seniors.

The ranking dipped somewhat due to pricier cost of senior care here– a year in an assisted living community runs about $50,000 on average and a home health aide costs over $51,000.

6. Colorado

With its abundant natural beauty and vibrant cities, Colorado is another great place to live for people of all ages. And for those 55 and older, the Centennial State ranks seventh in overall quality of life, well-being and healthcare quality.

Its relatively high senior care rates (roughly $50,000 on average for either assisted living or a home health aide) pulled down the state’s ranking slightly.

7. Hawaii

In addition to being one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations, beautiful Hawaii boasts a great mix of quality of life, health care and support for people 55 and over.

The state scored the highest marks in the nation on support for family caregivers, and among the highest for quality of long-term care and supports for seniors.

But with senior care costs here among the highest in the nation (home health aides cost around $56,000 per year on average, while a year in an assisted living community runs about $48,000), not everyone can afford to spend their later years in the Aloha State.

8. South Carolina

South Carolina not only draws plenty of tourists to its beachfront vacation towns, pastel-colored houses and Civil War monuments, it’s also a smart choice for seniors looking for affordable long-term care.

The only southern state to make the top 10, South Carolina boasts the nation’s fifth-cheapest elder care. A year in an assisted living community costs $37,500 on average, while a home health aide costs roughly $42,000 per year.

Meanwhile, the state’s overall quality of life and healthcare rankings for seniors are around the national average.

9. Nebraska

While it’s mostly known for its agriculture, with cornfields blanketing the landscape, Nebraska is also an excellent choice for people looking for a place to spend their later years.

The Cornhusker State also ranks high in the quality of life, healthcare and well-being indexes, and scores high marks for its quality of senior care and support for seniors and family caregivers.

As far as affordability of senior care, Nebraska’s costs are around the national average (roughly $53,000 annually for a home health aide and about $43,500 a year for assisted living expenses).

10. Wisconsin

Wisconsin isn’t just for fans of cheese, beer and football – it’s also an excellent place to live for the 55-and-older crowd.

While senior care here is relatively expensive ($48,000 per year on average for an assisted living community and about $50,000 yearly for a home health aide), the state ranks eighth in the nation for quality of life and health care.

Wisconsin’s long-term care options and support for seniors and family caregivers also scored some of the highest marks in the country, cementing its place among the top 10.

Laura Dixon

As Caring's Editorial Manager, Laura writes and edits articles about important issues for family caregivers and seniors. See full bio

9 months, said...

Why are the costs for home health aides so high? I have worked for one agency, after retiring, and found the pay too small to be worth the expense of extra maintenance on my car and gas, which was only reimbursed to $.25/mile. The figures posted here are at least 4x the amount I was making. That is why I kept the job only about 3 weeks. Do the agencies take that much off the top? Why?

over 1 year, said...

What are the Tropical locations that were not mention.

almost 2 years, said...

Seven of the top 10 states are all in the north of the country. Those northern states look good in photos but what is inviting about the freezing cold winters? 2) The summers are humid. 3) Unless you are in a city of at least 100,000 people there is a shortage of the medical care that most seniors will require. The only reason to retire in those northern states is familiarity and nearby relatives and friends.

almost 2 years, said...

Where does Texas rate on the list?

almost 2 years, said...

Thank you fellow commenter ... thanks for the info . ...deff. will look into that.

almost 2 years, said...

There are areas around Apopca a little north of the Orlando area where land is available. My suggestion would be to check the local area realitors for former orange grove properties and such. I've seen undeveloped property within 30-40 miles of Orlando or in the Deltona area for as little as $500.00 an acre. I'm serious, prices are that low in some of the rural areas that are still undeveloped. There would be work envolved getting power in and getting things built if you didn't just take in an rv or a mobile home which I've known a lot of people to do. Then it's just a matter of digging a well and a sewer system. Just food for thought.

almost 2 years, said...

I would consider that , buy a little land there in what area away from attractions that`s a good price ? I don`t mind being way out in fact I like privacy, I have too many ducks for the parade ...I am a duck alcoholic , and LOVE fresh farm eggs that are organic raised. That`s why it`s perfect here in all the Mos. except the winter ....Jan. - march....ugh. I also have tame Canada geese that have there babies here every yr. ...the babies go south but Mom and Dad stay ( I feed them Good ) and tame, ALL kinds of ducks . so , that being the case It would be hard to move them to Fl. Plus I have a very big pond partly fenced in to keep them safe. Plus I know it gets way to hot in the summer there so part time is great. nice chatting about the options . would LOVE to see the parade though.. fun to watch peoples faces around the ducks lol.

almost 2 years, said...

I agree. That would be a nice way to go. Summer in your area and winter in Florida. It's funny you'd mention the ducks though. The Peabody hotel in Florida has an entire flock of ducks that live in the Penthouse there in Orlando. Every morning they come down to the fountain and every evening they go back up to the penthouse. It's fun to watch because they make a big deal out of it for the tourist that come from all over to watch the "duck parade". As open as that area is to animals I'm sure you could find a park there that would allow you to bring them if there aren't too many that is. A lot of land for sale in that area that's very reasonable too if you don't mind getting a little away from the tourist attractions.

almost 2 years, said...

The best way to have it is to have the best of both worlds ...., Tn . in the warmer Mos. and Fl. in the winter ....I would do that.... but have Ducks , ( which I couldn`t have in N.Y. cause they froze to death ) ugh ) So I have them here and live cheap , I need to find a duck and chicken sitter LOL for the winter , then off I go to Fl. 4 winter. Live Cheap and comfy ...that`s the plan. no cheaper place than Tn. plus the beautiful country...then off to be warmer 4 winter.

almost 2 years, said...

I can't argue with what you've said and to be honest if the cold didn't bother me I'd live year round in the Carolinas or Tennessee. Not long but I did live in Tennessee for a short time. Met my late wife there as a matter of fact. I love the Blue Ridge Parkway especially in the fall. The main point I was trying to make all along was the states this article or survey or whatever it was named states that will have a far better retirement income that I will and can stand the cold weather. So I was trying to suggest states where those that may be relying on income from social security and/or have trouble with cold weather would be the happiest. I can't speak for those that have a good or excellent income during retirement but I felt someone should speak up for those with a moderate or low retirement income as I felt this original article did not. Some may not need to consider the cost of living after they retire and I applaud them but there are far too many that will have to live on a lower fixed income and a strict budget. Those are the people I feel are far too often over looked even I feel quite confident better than 50% of those now in retirement fall into the category of. I had no intention of dominating the comment section of this posting but felt driven to speak out. My apologies to any who feel I'm speaking out of turn or too much but I can't apologize for speaking out for those who are less fortunate when it's time to retire.

almost 2 years, said...

Sorry you can not take any cold , I am from n.y. and it`s really cold there and high cost of living much higher.... much milder and cost of living is cheap here, although it does get down to the 20`s ...which I hate , it`still not as bad as northern states. . My daughter had a home in S.C. and loved it but was getting too expensive to live there with the cost of living and tax`s . so she`s back here . and does go to Fl. in winter....which is what I will do if I live that long ...LOL But for the $ can`t beat Tn.

almost 2 years, said...

I can't deny that the cost of living in Tennessee is among the lowest but can't agree about the weather. Like parts of North and South Carolina and parts of the other states I named before much of the state is mountainous thus having severe winter weather which for people like myself can be very difficult to deal with. I have injuries from my time in the military that have left me with arthritis and cold weather can make it very painful. I was born and raised in North Carolina and love that area but because of the colder weather there I will be spending my retirement in Florida and even then somewhere in the mid to southern areas. I may spend some of the warmer summer months in the Carolinas but for winter I'll be like the other "snowbirds" and head south.

almost 2 years, said...

Tennessee is the cheapest and Low tax`s , plus great weather !!!! Carol Mac.....senior

almost 2 years, said...

The only state in this list I'd even think of considering is South Carolina. Like so many others my age or older I live on a fixed income that's not all that great so cost of living is very high on my priorities. So cost of living, weather, attitude of local residents, access to local health care and housing are my top priorities. Weighing those things first, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana would be at the top of my list. Lowest cost of living areas I know of in this country, very friendly attitude for the most part from locals towards new move ins, mostly good health care also. There are even developments there in some areas that offer housing to seniors that can be purchased with a reverse mortgage to make the cost of living even lower. Granted those houses are one maybe two bedroom but just how much room do most seniors need. Those communities and developments also have health care and other resources such as shopping and other things important to seniors near by. Not to mention having neighbors in your own age range if you're a senior. Granted the southeast is known for higher humidity than other areas but for the most part the temps are pleasant for the most part of the year, the locals are pleasant to live around for the most part and more likely to be friendly and helpful than other areas. It's a more relaxed attitude and lifestyle than other areas of the country too. So for me good weather, low cost of living, pleasant and helpful attitude of neighbors, decent distance to good healthcare and daily needs like groceries and shopping rates very high on my list. I've not found any where in the country better suited to meet more of the needs of seniors at the lowest cost than the southeast so this list of states is just not right for those needing to watch expenses in their retirement years.

almost 2 years, said...

Seems like most could be the top states to freeze to death in. And too much of many locations are rather rural meaning very likely there is little transportation if you can't drive. And then we have Hawaii. It has been several years since I was last there but food costs are at least double almost anywhere on the Mainland. Because so many people will be needing nursing home care at some point, there are states like NY where that can be fully paid by Medicaid. Obviously NYC is expensive but the whole state sin't NYC!