Caring.com’s Senior Living Report
Caring.com’s 2019 Senior Living Report was created to identify the states that are the friendliest towards seniors and offer the highest quality of life for older adults. In this report, all 50 states across the US are graded using six different categories of 70 metrics that cover everything from average housing costs to the quality of the public transportation system.
Why We Created this Report
While a person’s employer and other ties tend to play a large role in where most adults live, seniors often have the luxury of choosing their state and city of residence based on factors such as quality of life, weather, and cost of living. To help older adults make this very important decision, our team of researchers spent countless hours researching and developing metrics and using them to grade each state in the country.
Each of our metrics was carefully chosen by our team of researchers and senior living experts, and they each play a key role in determining the opportunity for seniors in a given area to live a full, happy life. After filtering out redundant or superfluous data points, we were left with 70 key metrics.
Next, our team grouped the 70 metrics into 6 categories and gave each category a weight. The weights represent each main category’s overall importance in determining the quality of life and senior friendliness in a particular area.
The six categories of metrics that we developed along with their weights are listed below:
Health Care makes up about 1/5th of the score for each state and area graded in this report. The reason we gave this category such a high weight is that it’s one of the first and most important considerations for seniors when they are considering moving. When it comes to the overall quality of living in an area, health care places a huge role in determining how happy and healthy seniors are.
The Health Care category is made up of seven metrics, all relating to the quality and availability of health care in the area. The metrics included in this category measure factors such as how many primary care physicians, dentists, mental health professionals and other physicians there are in the state per 100,000 people. Other metrics we looked at include the rate of patient satisfaction and preventable hospitalization.
Senior Living & Housing
Housing is a major part of everyone’s budget, but for seniors on a fixed income, it’s vital to find a home that is affordable and accessible as they grow older. Since older adults can’t enjoy or afford many of the other aspects of retirement without a home that meets their needs without breaking the bank, we included this group of metrics as one of the top three most important in our report taking into account housing costs and senior living options and availability.
The six metrics in this group rate how affordable and available suitable housing is for seniors in a given area. One of the key metrics in this group compares the comparative cost of housing in the area to the average income in the same area, and adjusted accordingly. The availability of subsidized housing, multi-family homes, and houses with no-step entrances was also measured.
While this final group of metrics was given the lowest weight out of the six, it’s still plays a role in determining how well-suited for seniors a given are is. Quality government and non-profit programs that are well-run and targeted to serving senior’s needs play a significant role in helping seniors to remain active and well as they grow older.
Community Involvement measures the opportunity that seniors have to be engaged socially and politically in their communities. The three main metrics we used in this category cover how involved seniors are in their government (voting), how often they volunteer and the programs and clubs that facilitate social opportunities.
Transportation was assigned a weight in our middle tier due to the fact that quality, affordable transportation opens up a world of possibility and puts an active, full lifestyle within reach. Whether due to health problems or the cost of owning a vehicle, many seniors are unable to drive, and affording private transportation isn’t often possible. Getting to and from doctors appointments, social outings, and general errands can be difficult depending on the transportation options in a given area.
The metrics in this group examine how senior-friendly the transportation system is in a given area. A variety of metrics were used, including crash rates, household transportation costs and the frequency and availability of local transit services.
Quality of Life
Quality of Life is our broadest group of metrics and is somewhat of a catch-all for metrics that measure the access and opportunity seniors have for an active, vibrant life. We included this as one of the top three groups of metrics because of the important role that opportunities for an active lifestyle play in making seniors happy and healthy.
The 18 individual metrics in this group measure key indicators of Quality of Life, and can be split into two sub-groups – those that measure the availability of enriching activities and services, and the prevalence of factors that inhibit an active, healthy lifestyle. Measured in the first sub-group is the availability of things like museums, libraries, parks, fresh markets, and the like. In the second sub-group, the quality of the air and water and prevalence of obesity were examined.
Not every older adult is able to live off of social security and savings/investments, those that must work a part-time job to make ends meet should consider the job climate in an area and how many opportunities there are for part-time work. Due to this concern, we created a group of categories that measures the earning potential for seniors in a given area.
Three metrics were put into this group. These metrics cover factors such as the rate of income inequality in the area and how many jobs per worker are available.