In studying the cost of growing old in all 50 states, Caring.com examined 11 different socio-economic factors critical to the overall expense of caring for an aging parent. These included Caring.com’s internal data on senior care costs, Genworth’s 2017 Cost of Care Report on the average cost of senior care in each state, the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index, and AARP’s Long Term Services & Supports State Scorecard.
“It all comes down to finding that ideal balance between a low cost of living and the accessibility of services,” says New York City-based eldercare advisor and advocate Joanna Leefer. “That’s where you’ll be able to stretch your dollar the furthest in caring for an aging parent.”
The following 10 states topped the list for affordable senior care, supportive services for elderly adults and a reasonable cost of living.
With abundant sunshine and a number of vibrant, burgeoning cities, Arizona has become an increasingly popular state for seniors—and luckily, it’s also still relatively affordable.
The Grand Canyon State ranked third for overall cost of living and only 23rd for the cost of senior care services, with the annual costs for both home health aides and assisted living facilities hovering around the national median. However, nursing homes in the state cost about $76,500 per year, which is almost $10,000 cheaper than the national median.
The Buckeye State just barely missed the Top 10 for the cost of living, coming in 11th in that category with an index of 98.7. Meanwhile the cost of senior services is more or less on par with national medians. An in-home aide will cost about $48,000 per year, a nursing home about $81,000, and about $50,000 for an assisted living facility, which is about $5,000 more than the national median.
“Senior services might cost a little more than some of these other Top 10 states, but the low cost of living winds up balancing that out a little bit,” says Stephan Weiler, professor of economics at Colorado State University's Regional Economic Development Institute.
Texas cracked the Top 10 Most Affordable list with high scores in all three main categories. The Lone Star State came in ninth for the cost of senior care, 19th for the cost of living score, and 23rd for elderly and family caregiver support services.
The problem with Texas is that it’s huge, notes Jason Biddle, a senior care veteran and publisher of TheHelpingHome.com.
“I live in Houston, and the cost and availability of senior services here is going to be vastly different than in many other parts of the state,” says Biddle. “But if you live in Texas and you need to stretch your dollar, the good news is you could probably find a more affordable county without leaving the state.”
The median cost of a nursing home here is $54,750 -- a staggering $31,025 less than the national average.
Like many of its southern neighbors, Tennessee is generally quite affordable for seniors overall. It ranked sixth in the cost of living category and eighth for the cost of senior care. The median cost of a nursing home in the state is about $73,000 per year, more than $10,000 cheaper than the national median. Meanwhile, an assisted living facility will cost about $43,000—just $2,000 cheaper than the national median—and an in-home health aide costs about $43,000, which is about $6,000 below the national average.
6. South Carolina
South Carolina has become an increasingly popular state for those who prefer the warmth of a southern state with an affordable price tag.
When it comes to the cost of senior care services, South Carolina came in fourth, with a $34,000 median annual cost for assisted living ($11,000 cheaper than the national median). A home health aide costs about $45,000 for the year and a nursing home will run you about $77,000 (about $9,000 cheaper than the national median).
The standout marker for Idaho is its overall cost of living. It ranked fourth in this category (behind only Mississippi, Kentucky, and Arizona), with a cost of living index of 96.1.
“It’s a basic supply and demand situation here,” says Weiler. “Living in Idaho is going to be a lot less expensive than, say, the San Francisco Bay Area, because there are fewer people eager to live there and much more available real estate. That’s good news if you already live there.”
The state’s elderly and caregiver support ranking ranked 31st and cost of senior care a promising 14th, with a home health aide costing about $49,000, an assisted living facility costing about $37,800, and a year in a nursing home about $88,600. An added bonus: neither prescription drugs nor Social Security payments are taxable—a significant benefit for elderly residents.
Out of all of the Top 10 most affordable states, Wisconsin ranked highest for elderly and caregiver support, coming in as sixth best in the country.
In terms of affordability, the Badger State fared pretty well, scoring 23rd for overall cost of living (an index of 103.9) and 19th for senior services costs. The median cost for an in-home health aide (about $53,768), assisted living facility (about $48,000) and a nursing home (about $95,000) are all slightly higher than the national medians.
Coming in at number 10 for overall cost of living and 12th for the average cost of senior care services, Missouri falls into a sweet spot of affordability. Seniors here can expect to spend about $32,000 for assisted living, $59,000 for a nursing home, and $48,000 for an in-home aide annually.
“These numbers suggest to me that there are probably some counties or towns in Missouri that are extremely affordable,” says Weiler. “So if you’re looking to stretch your dollar even further, maybe all you need to do is move an hour or two away.”
Overall cost of living is the key to Mississippi’s high ranking on this list. With a cost of living index of 91.1, it’s the most affordable state in the country, all told. What’s more, Mississippi seniors pay less than the national median for various types of care: about $41,000 annually for a home health aide and $39,900 a year for assisted living (compared to national medians of $50,000 and $45,000 respectively).
But finding quality care can be challenging for Mississippi elders or their adult children. It ranked 35th for elderly and caregiver support.
“What’s great about Mississippi is that it’s not only affordable, but it has warm weather for getting outside most of the year round,” says Jim Miller, senior advocate, author and publisher of SavvySenior.org.
Oklahoma is the most affordable state in the nation for seniors, our analysis found. The Sooner State came in third out of all 50 states for the average cost of senior care, with a median annual cost of $53,655 for nursing home care (over $32,000 less than the national median of $85,775), $36,390 for an assisted living facility (more than $8,000 less than the national median of $45,000) and about $48,000 for an in-home health aide. What’s more, Oklahoma has a cost of living index of 96.2, making it the fifth-cheapest state overall.
And while the state came in 24th for supportive policies and programs for the elderly and family caregivers, its overall affordability balances things out, Weiler notes.
“Not many people are clambering to live in Oklahoma, which is why it’s so comparatively cheap,” he says. “But you should know that you may trade accessibility of care for overall affordability.”