2017 Rankings: The Healthiest States for Seniors

Fifty states, 20+ metrics, five categories and one official winner. Keep reading to discover which state takes the top spot as the Healthiest State for Seniors, and learn how it got that title.

 

In an effort to identify the healthiest states for seniors, we put all 50 states and the District of Columbia to the test, measuring each state against 20 metrics that evaluate the quality, affordability and accessibility of local health care. The data extended to hospice care, nursing homes, home health care, prescription drug coverage and Medicare spending.  

We even included other things that can affect your health, such as climate, air quality, crime, food insecurity, physical activity, volunteerism, community data and more.

Read on to see how we determined the rankings and where your state ranks. Our top five might just surprise you.

Contents

  1. State Rankings
  2. State Details & Fact Sheets
  3. Methodology

State Rankings

Aggregate Rankings - 2017 Healthiest States for Seniors
State Overall Rank Population Rank Cost of Living Rank Healthcare Rank Community Factors Rank Environment Rank
Minnesota 1 6 28 4 2 8
Iowa 2 11 8 13 5 12
North Dakota 3 22 2 30 1 1
Florida 4 5 41 5 29 9
Nebraska 5 26 12 25 14 6
South Dakota 6 7 27 45 7 5
Colorado 7 16 24 9 23 15
Montana 8 3 32 48 9 2
Maine 9 1 43 18 25 15
Michigan 10 16 19 11 33 27
New Mexico 11 8 23 42 21 3
Idaho 12 18 10 32 11 22
Hawaii 13 2 40 38 27 4
Arizona 14 9 26 12 41 31
Massachusetts 15 15 45 2 13 21
Delaware 16 26 31 7 15 45
Wisconsin 17 28 34 21 12 10
Wyoming 18 18 5 51 16 7
Vermont 19 3 50 26 7 17
Alaska 20 24 29 39 4 11
Pennsylvania 21 10 39 10 10 50
Texas 22 33 14 15 51 25
Missouri 23 33 15 22 36 34
Kansas 24 44 7 35 18 13
Utah 25 38 6 36 6 38
Indiana 26 41 1 24 17 48
Washington 27 11 38 34 22 25
South Carolina 28 11 30 29 46 30
New Hampshire 29 11 46 28 3 20
New York 30 21 49 3 35 28
Arkansas 31 42 4 37 43 14
Connecticut 32 29 47 1 19 40
West Virginia 33 24 9 41 26 47
District of Columbia 34 18 35 16 32 49
Oregon 35 23 42 27 27 19
Virginia 36 31 22 47 20 32
Louisiana 37 50 16 19 49 22
Illinois 38 38 33 20 30 36
California 39 33 44 8 40 35
Ohio 40 44 21 14 34 51
North Carolina 41 38 25 31 38 36
New Jersey 42 31 51 6 24 38
Tennessee 43 29 13 43 50 46
Alabama 44 47 17 33 39 43
Kentucky 45 36 11 49 43 43
Maryland 46 44 37 23 30 42
Mississippi 47 49 18 44 47 28
Oklahoma 48 50 3 50 42 24
Rhode Island 49 37 48 17 37 33
Nevada 50 43 36 40 48 17
Georgia 51 47 20 46 45 41

National Rankings Map

State Highlights

Download Minnesota Fact Sheet

#1. Minnesota

Minnesota claims the honor as 2017’s Healthiest State for Seniors. Minnesota’s top billing comes partly in thanks to ranking fourth in overall health care factors, second in community well-being, sixth in population and eighth in environmental factors. Breaking it down further, Minnesota ranked:

  • 1st in food insecurity among seniors, with just 8% of those age 60 and over suffering.
  • 1st in prescription drug coverage, with 88% of those 65 and over having a plan that covers at least the Medicare standard.
  • 2nd in volunteerism among those age 65 and over, with 38% of the demographic being involved.
  • 2nd in the ratio of home health care workers to residents age 75 and over.
  • 2nd in the percentage of dental visits among those 65 and over, at 76%.

Featured Cities

The following cities in Minnesota scored highly in our analysis of health factors.

  • Duluth - Combining a relatively higher percentage of residents over 65 with a high ratio of hospital beds to patients and low cost of living, Duluth is an attractive destination for seniors.
  • Minneapolis - Minneapolis ranked highest in community factors, including Park Score, and had the highest number of senior living community options in the state.
  • St. Paul - St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota and adjoining city to Minneapolis, scored well in overall health metrics including air quality measures and park score.
Download Iowa Fact Sheet

#2. Iowa

Iowa ranked as the second healthiest state for seniors thanks to some impressive consistency that saw the state rank among the top 13 for all five categories including a fourth-place finish in community well-being. Iowa also ranked:

  • 3rd among the states with the least amount of hospital deaths for patients 65 and over at just 16%.
  • 3rd for the percentage of able-bodied seniors, or those age 65 and over with no disability, at 68%.
  • 7th in hospice care enrollment for those age 65 and over with a diagnosis of a health condition with a high probability of death, at 59%.
  • 7th among the states with the lowest reported cases of mental health distress among residents 65 and over, at less than 6%.
  • 8th in food insecurity, with less than 12% of residents 60 and over facing hunger.

Featured Cities

The following cities in Iowa scored highly in our analysis of health factors.

  • Des Moines - Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, has relatively low air particle emissions and has the largest number of options for senior community living and home healthcare nursing. Des Moines was also rated by the Milken Institute as a Top 10 City for Successful Aging.
  • Waterloo - With the highest Medicare reimbursement rate and prescription drug coverage, residents from Waterloo enjoy good health and a high ratio of hospital beds to patients.
  • Cedar Rapids - Cedar Rapids scored highest in overall hospital patient satisfaction among all cities on our list and had relatively low readmission rates.
Download North Dakota Fact Sheet

#3. North Dakota

North Dakota claimed a pair of first-place rankings in both environment and community well-being while also finishing second in cost of living. Those strengths propelled the state to number three overall while also ranking:

  • 1st in nursing home quality, as measured by the percentage of certified nursing home beds with at least a four-star rating, at 63%.
  • 1st among states with the lowest rate of intensive care unit use by residents age 65 and over, at less than 5%.
  • 3rd in volunteerism, with 37% of residents age 65 and over performing volunteer work within the last year.
  • 5th in home-delivered meals, measured as the number of people age 65 and over in poverty who received a home-delivered meal, at 54%.
  • 7th in geriatrician shortfall, measured as a percentage of the minimum number required for each state, at 48%.

Featured Cities

The following cities in North Dakota scored highly in our analysis of health factors.

  • Bismarck - Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, had the highest average metrics among hospital factors (ratio of beds to patients, satisfaction rate, and readmission rate).
  • Grand Forks - With the highest Medicare reimbursement rate and lowest mortality rate, Grand Forks scored second on our list.
  • Minot - Paired with a relatively low cost of living and abundance of senior care options, Minot is a good option for long term care and independent senior living.
Download Florida Fact Sheet

#4. Florida

Florida, considered by many to be America’s top retirement destination, had its reputation validated by fifth-place rankings for both health care and senior population. Florida was solidified as the fourth healthiest state for seniors by ranking:

  • 1st in diabetes management, with 86% of residents age 65 to 75 receiving a blood lipids test.
  • 3rd in the rate of hospice care admittance for residents age 65 and over who have a chronic disease, at 61%.
  • 4th among states with the lowest percentages of residents 65 and over who are obese, at just 23%.
  • 4th in recommended hospital care for seniors age 65 and over who received the recommended care for heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical procedures, at 98%.
  • 4th among states with the lowest percentage of falls within the last year reported by residents age 65 and over, at just 25%.

Featured Cities

The following cities in Florida scored highly in our analysis of health factors.

  • St. Petersburg - CSt. Pete ranked second in overall ratio of hospital beds to patients and scored well in affordability of cost of living. Additionally, St. Pete’s Park Score beat out larger cities in our list.
  • Tampa - With clean air and a relatively low cost of living, Tampa seniors have an abundance of activities including fine arts performances that contribute to a high quality of life.
  • Sarasota - Sarasota, home to some of the top ranked beaches, has one of the highest percentages of residents over the age of 65 and one of the lowest readmission and mortality rates of all cities analyzed.
Download Nebraska Fact Sheet

#5. Nebraska

Nebraska came in as the fifth-healthiest state for seniors in part by ranking in the top 14 for environment, community well-being and cost of living. Nebraska was also boosted by ranking:

  • 5th among states with the lowest percentage of residents 65 and over with mental health distress, at just 5%.
  • 6th in prescription drug coverage, with 87% of residents having a drug plan that covers at least the Medicare standard.
  • 6th in volunteerism, with 35% of the state’s 65-and-over population participating in volunteer work.
  • 11th in community support, with $1,220 in expenditures for each resident age 65 and over who is living in poverty.
  • 11th in home-delivered meals, with 36% of those 65 and over and living in poverty having received a home-delivered meal.

Featured Cities

The following cities in Nebraska scored highly in our analysis of health factors.

  • Omaha - The Omaha area has the highest concentration of assisted living facilities and offers an abundance of public parks.
  • Lincoln - Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska, holds a high patient satisfaction rate and low cost of living that help make it it an attractive area to live in older age.

Methodology

Our research team compiled data from multiple sources including publicly available national data as well as third-party data from the United Health Foundation and others. Our meta analysis included 20 discrete metrics across five key areas: population/demography, cost of living, healthcare, community, and environmental factors. Each state was scored on an aggregated and weighted average based on a commissioned survey of 100 senior respondents who rated how important each factor was to their health and wellbeing. Areas such as healthcare coverage and affordability were weighted higher than environmental and community factors.

The analysis was based on the most recent data available for each dimension. A full listing of data sources is provided below.

Data Sources: United Health Foundation, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Cost of Living Index, U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Federal Bureau of Investigation, American Lung Association, National Centers for Environmental Information, The Trust for Public Land, and MedicareSupplement.com research.