The 10 Best States to Grow Old in, 2016 Study

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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