The states where seniors are living better lives


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Life expectancy in the United States plummeted dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a two-year decline between 2019 and 2020,  the most significant single-year drop since World War II. But, it turns out that, despite the dark prognosis, Americans entering their golden years are living their best lives … better and longer than 50 years ago. conducted a study to find out which states have seen the most improvements in seniors’ quality of life over the past decade, and which states are failing to keep up.

According to the study, while life expectancy has shrunk in recent years, many of the problems affecting seniors have subsided. There is a notable decline in death rates from diseases like cancer, heart disease, and COPD, which are some of the leading causes of death for older adults. Moreover, a larger Social Security check has been noted (even after factoring in inflation), and fewer older people are experiencing social isolation due to difficulties like living alone and lacking internet access.

Senior couple


To find out which states are the best or the worst for seniors in America, the study compared all states across four major categories (physical health, mental health, finances, and social factors) with all categories having at least two individual metrics. A total of 12 individual ranking factors were included, and states were awarded points based on their rank in each factor, with a best possible score of 306.

Physical health

“We compared the age-adjusted rates of the top five causes of death of older adults (excluding COVID-19), which are Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, COPD, diabetes, and heart disease for the years 2011 and 2020. This data came via a custom query to the CDC’s WONDER database” reads the analysis.

In 2020, amid the raging pandemic, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States, with only cancer and heart disease taking more lives. These top causes of death, along with Alzheimer’s disease, COPD, and diabetes, were more common for people over the age of 65.

To determine which states are the best in combating these diseases, the study calculated the rate of change for all five top causes of death for those 65 and older (Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, COPD, diabetes, and heart disease) over the past decade. In the final analysis, the rate of change for all five diseases was averaged and each state’s score was weighted by a factor of 2.5, given the importance of physical health.

Mental health

“We compared the age-adjusted rates of suicide among those 65 and older for the years 2011 and 2020 using a WONDER query, as well as the percentage of older adults reporting having no bad mental health days in the past month for the years 2011 and 2020. This figure came via a custom query of the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System” the study notes.

When adding the mental health into the equation, most states do poorly, with a significant increase in suicide rates for older adults. Two factors were considered  in this category — the percentage of older adults who reported having stable mental health days in the past month and the age-adjusted rate of death by suicide for those 65 and older.

While only one state excelled in both categories, five states showed improvements in the share of older adults reporting to have no bad mental well-being days, and 13 states have seen the rate of suicides among older adults fall in the past decade.


“We compared the change in the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit for 2011 and 2020, adjusting the 2011 figures for inflation at a cumulative rate of 15 percent. We also calculated the change in the share of older adults below the poverty line in each state with data from the U.S. Census Bureau for the years 2011 and 2020.” the study writes.

The financial well-being of seniors is a mixed bag. Each state has seen its monthly Social Security retirement check increase by inflation, but more than half of states are also seeing an increase in the number of people aged 65 and older living below the poverty line.

Social factors

“Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we analyzed how the risk of social isolation for older adults has changed via these three metrics: householders 65 and older living alone, people 65 and older without internet access, and residents 65 and older per 100,000 people.”

Over the past decade, all states have seen their population-adjusted rate of older adults rise, while all but five have seen a reduction in the number of seniors living alone. There has been a decline in the percentage of seniors without access to the internet in all but 10 states, but in this area we were only able to compare the change since 2015 since data from a decade ago was not available. As a result, all states have probably seen an improvement in this rate since 2011.

Seniors traveling

Best and worst states

“Each state’s rank across the individual metrics was averaged within their categories and those ranks were then added together. We used a formula that weighed physical health at 2.5 times its value, finances at 1.5 times its value, and the other two categories at their full value. As a result, the highest possible score a state could receive was 306.” the study reads.

To use nation-leading Washington as an example:

  • Physical health: 125 points
  • Mental health: 20.5 points
  • Finances: 62.3 points
  • Social factors: 41 points

Here are the best and the worst states for American seniors from zero to hero:

Nevada neighborhood
trekandshoot / istockphoto

51. Nevada

Overall score: 76.3


The “silver state” had the nation’s lowest score, ranking the second worst for physical health, in the bottom 15 for social factors and finances and in the middle of the pack for mental health.


50. Michigan

Overall score: 86.1


49. Utah

Overall score: 91.8

Arkansas road

48. Arkansas

Overall score:  94.4


47. Hawaii

Overall score: 94.6

West Virginia

46. West Virginia

Overall score: 96.8

Sean Pavone/istockphoto

45. Alabama

Overall score: 100.2

louisiana road

44. Louisiana

Overall score: 101.8

Wisconsin Suburb

43. Wisconsin

Overall score: 105.4


42. Mississippi

Overall score:  106.2

Champaign, Illinois
Jacob Boomsma / iStock

41. Illinois

Overall score: 119

Columbus, Ohio

40. Ohio

Overall score: 120.2

New Mexico

39. New Mexico

Overall score: 122.1

Wilmington, Delaware
ChrisBoswell / istockphoto

38. Delaware

Overall score: 122.8

Athens, Georgia
SeanPavonePhoto/ iStock

37. Georgia

Overall score: 123


36. Oklahoma

Overall score:  125.8


35. Missouri

Overall score:  126


34. Texas

Overall score: 130.8

Topeka, Kansas
fotoguy22 / iStock

33. Kansas

Overall score: 132

Gary, Indiana
benkrut / iStock

32. Indiana

Overall score: 135.3

Nashville, Tennessee

31. Tennessee

Overall score: 138.8

Rhode Island

30. Rhode Island

Overall score:  146.8


29. Minnesota

Overall score: 151.5


28. Florida

Overall score: 154.6

Omaha, Nebraska
Matt Bills / iStock

27. Nebraska

Overall score:  156.6

South Carolina

26. South Carolina

Overall score:  158.7


25. Iowa

Overall score: 164.3

Wyoming farmhouse

24. Wyoming

Overall score: 167.3

Willamette Valley, Oregon
DC_Colombia / iStock

23. Oregon

Overall score: 169.4


22. Montana

Overall score: 169.7

New York

21. New York

Overall score: 170.8


20. Idaho

Overall score:  172

Anchorage, Alaska

19. Alaska

Overall score: 173.3

North Carolina

18. North Carolina

Overall score: 176

Arlington, Virginia
SeanPavonePhoto/ istockphoto

17. Virginia

Overall score: 178.3

Temecula, California
KGrif / iStock

16. California

Overall score: 179.3


15. Pennsylvania

Overall score: 185.1


14. Kentucky

Overall score:  185.8

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Jacob Boomsma / istockphoto

13. Colorado

Overall score: 188.3

Hartford, Connecticut

12. Connecticut

Overall score:  188.7

Coconino, Arizona
travelview / iStock

11. Arizona

Overall score:  189.5

New Jersey

10. New Jersey

Overall score: 193.1


9. Maine

Overall score: 200

Maryland road

8. Maryland

Overall score: 204.3

South Dakota

7. South Dakota

Overall score:  205.2

District of Columbia

6. District of Columbia

Overall score: 211.2

Vermont road

5. Vermont

Overall score:  213.6

New Hampshire

4. New Hampshire

Overall score: 228.2

Milton, Massachusetts
lawrencetfay / iStock

3. Massachusetts

Overall score: 228.8

North Dakota

2. North Dakota

Overall score: 246.8

Tacoma Washington
thyegn / istockphoto

1. Washington

Overall score:  248.8

Scoring 248.8 Washington’s winning performance was driven by its strength across three of the four categories, ranking second in physical health and social factors and fifth in finances.

Working seniors


While conditions may vary across different states for senior citizens, that does not mean they’d be the best landing spots for retirement. However, you can use this summary to help you make informed decisions about where older adults are most likely to face fewer barriers to good health of all types.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Social Security Administration

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