Senior Care

America's Healthiest States for Seniors, Ranked

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Senior Care

Senior Care

Senior health is an acute concern everywhere, but some states are doing a far better job of addressing it. According to the Census Bureau, adults 65 and older are now more than 15% of the total population. By 2030, that will grow to 20%, putting stress on clinical and community services and not doing wonders for the nation's health overall. America's Health Rankings took a 34-point look at the health of seniors in the United States — right down to their isolation levels and suicide rate — and ranked each state by how it met those criteria. Read on to find out where your state ranks.

Related: Most Common Health Issues for People Over 60


50. Mississippi

Change since last year: Down one
Just as it was last year, Mississippi gets bad marks across the board  — and actually got worse. The state ranked dead last in both community support and health outcomes, with community support actually dropping from $207 to $184 per adult aged 60 and older in poverty. The average for all states is $571. Mississippi had the highest prevalence of seniors living in poverty at 14%, compared with over 9% nationally, and the highest early death rate at 2,483 deaths per 100,000 adults aged 65 to 74, compared with1,791 deaths nationally. On the very slim bright side, excessive drinking is only a problem for 4% of adults aged 65 and older, compared with just over 7% nationally.


49. Kentucky

Change since last year: Down one
While not at the bottom, this year Kentucky was a little closer to dead last. Along with Alabama, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, Kentucky was in the bottom quintile for depression, frequent mental distress, and risk of social isolation. In the past three years, the rate of excessive drinking has jumped 38%, climbing to almost 6% of adults aged 65 and over.

Related: 7 Common Mental Health Issues Among Seniors

Roberto Galan/istockphoto

48. Louisiana

Change since last year: Up two 
Cajun country wasn't in the bottom slot, but the state didn't have huge improvement, either. It was the least healthy state when it came to food insecurity (the percentage of adults aged 60 and older who faced the threat of hunger in the past year), coming in at 22%, 3.7 times higher than in Colorado, the healthiest state when it came to the hunger issue. When it came to obesity, the state ranked 49th overall with a whopping 34% of seniors qualifying as obese.


47. Oklahoma

Change since last year: Down one
For seniors, Oklahoma is not okay. In the past six years, obesity has increased 21% in adults aged 65 and over. While smoking has decreased by 22% in the past two years (dropping to 10% of adults aged 65 and older), physical inactivity is a problem for 36% of seniors. Not surprisingly, senior residents aren't feeling so great about things — in the past six years, depression has increased 9%, affecting 19% of adults 65 and over. There's also a high percentage — 22.9% — of low-care nursing home residents, putting the state at 48th in the national ranking.

West Virginia

46. West Virginia

Change since last year: Down one
West Virginia doesn't have a problem with excessive drinking (it only affects 3.6% of seniors) but, when it comes to health, the state doesn't fare well overall. Obesity affects 34% of adults age 65 and over, putting it at 47th in the nation, and 30% of seniors have teeth extractions, the highest rate in the nation. The state ranks 44th in senior smoking, with 11% puffing away. Unsurprisingly, the number of West Virginian seniors who die early (2,354 out of every 100,000 between ages 65 and 75) is among the largest in the country.


45. Arkansas

Change since last year: Up two
While Arkansas has had a slight improvement in the rankings over last year, it's still not the best place to be a senior, despite having an impressively low rate of excessive drinking (under 4% of those 65 and older), ranking the state third in the nation. Unfortunately, there's a high incidence of physical inactivity, with 37% of seniors falling into that category, and in the past year obesity has increased 11% in adults aged 65 and older.


44. Alabama

Change since last year: Down two
It's not a rosy picture for Alabama's seniors, who have a high early death rate (2,348 deaths per 100,000 adults aged 65 to 74). While in the past two years, obesity decreased 4% in adults aged 65 and older, in the same time period food insecurity increased 12%. Alabama was also the worst in the nation for high health status, with 31% of seniors falling into that category, though access to diabetes management (81% of Medicare-enrolled seniors ages 65 to 75) was strong enough to give Alabama 15th in the nation ranking.


43. Tennessee

Change since last year: Up one
Tennessee has a lot of seniors who smoke (12.1% of all seniors), but the fewest meal-delivery services for seniors in the nation (just 3.6 meals per 100 adults over 60 who have trouble living independently). It has 82.4% fewer geriatric doctors than it needs, it has only 61 home health care workers for every 1,000 seniors over 75, and 59 of every 1,000 senior hospitalizations are for preventable conditions. It's little surprise, then, that Tennessee, ranks 44th in the country for seniors who die early (2,289 out of every 100,000 between 65 and 75).

New Mexico

42. New Mexico

Change since last year: Down two
Wondering why New Mexico has dropped in the rankings two years in a row? The state is 49th in the nation for senior poverty, with 12% of those age 65 and over struggling to get by, and food insecurity affects 20.2% of seniors, landing New Mexico at 48th in the rankings. While obesity only impacts 22% of residents, boosting the state to third in the nation, it scores poorly when it comes to smoking (11% of seniors smoke) and arthritis management. The state is also dead last when it comes to home health care screenings.


41. Georgia

Change since last year: Up two
Though Georgia got a slight boost over last year, it isn't entirely peachy when it comes to getting older in the state. Though the state still has comparatively low numbers when it comes to excess drinking and ranks 15th in the nation, in the past two years excessive drinking increased 19%. During the same time period, physical inactivity also shot up 17%. Community support was also underwhelming, with $191 spent per senior to make it the second-lowest in the nation and a decrease of 35% over the last four years. 


40. Texas

Change since last year: Up one
How is Texas, a state with vast resources, this bad for seniors? Well, 10.8% of Texas seniors live in poverty and get just $206 apiece from Texas to help them cope with it. About 30% are obese, just over 35% are physically inactive, and almost 17% don't know where their next meal is coming from. Shockingly, in the past year depression among seniors has increased 71% to 18.8% of adults aged 65 and older.


39. Missouri

Change since last year: Dropped three
Missouri fell in the rankings after a six-spot improvement last year. While flu vaccine rates and prescription drug coverage are standouts (the state comes in 7th and 8th in the nation respectively). Roughly 24% of nursing home residents receive low to no care, almost 57 out of every 1,000 hospital admissions is for a preventable condition, 16% of hospitalized seniors are readmitted, and 18% of seniors have teeth extracted. The number of seniors in high health is almost 38%, putting Missouri at 36th in the nation.


38. Nevada

Change since last year: Down three
Go ahead, blame it on Vegas. The state comes in dead last in the nation for smoking rates, with 15.1% of seniors inhaling tobacco fumes representing a 48% increase over last year. On the bright side, only 25% of seniors are obese, a number that puts Nevada 6th in the country. Only 26% injure themselves in falls, but Nevada has only 77% of the geriatric doctors it needs and dedicates just $331 to seniors in poverty.

North Carolina

37. North Carolina

Change since last year: Down four
In some ways, North Carolina is a lot better than its ranking. Roughly 95% of seniors here have dedicated health providers, 87% have prescription drug coverage, 77% get health screenings, and 66% get the flu vaccine. But with more than 9% of seniors here living in poverty, the $319 a year (a drop from $342 last year) the state spends on each of them hasn't been enough to keep 21% of seniors from thinking they might starve.

36. Indiana

36. Indiana

Change since last year: Up three
Though Indiana has gone up in the rankings, it's still got a ways to go to qualify as healthy. Roughly 33% of its seniors are obese, 10% smoke, 15% don't know where they're getting their next meal from, and almost 19% have teeth extracted. As a result, 2,087 out of every 100,000 seniors in Indiana dies early.


35. Wyoming

Change since last year: Down five
After last year's six-point jump, Wyoming has lost almost as much ground this year, falling five spots to 35th. Roughly 8% of Wyoming seniors live in poverty, but the state spends $1,677 per person (a drop from $1,915 last year) addressing their needs. That's resulted in the third-most home-delivered meals in the nation for seniors having trouble living independently, and just 11% of seniors dealing with food insecurity. Yet there are still big health-care issues for seniors in this state: It has less than 19% of the geriatric doctors it needs, and only 89% of seniors have a dedicated health care provider.

South Carolina

34. South Carolina

Change since last year: Up three
South Carolina isn't the worst place to get older, but it has room for improvement. Though 9.2% of seniors live in poverty, almost 17% aren't sure how they'll get their next meal. South Carolina has no answer for them, either, as it dedicates only $276 per person to helping impoverished seniors.  With only 78 home health care workers per 1,000 people over 75 — in a state filled with retirees — even those with more money will have a tough time staying healthy.


33. Alaska

Change since last year: Down eleven
It's clear to see what went wrong for Alaska this year — poverty increased 76% for seniors, climbing to 7.4%. Other problems include a high incidence of obesity at almost 35% of seniors weighing too much, putting the state at the absolute bottom in the nation's rankings. Still, there are bright spots. The state spends $2,295 per person to help seniors in poverty, and physical inactivity is a problem for under 27% of Alaskan seniors. 

Steve Debenport/istockphoto

31. Illinois (tie)

Change since last year: Up seven
Illinois saw a welcome boost this year, though the state is still in the middle of the pack. While 67.1% of seniors are able-bodied (up from 66.2% last year), 30.2% are obese and just under 67% get health screenings. More than 16% end up in intensive care. On the upside SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) has a near-perfect 98.9% enrollment in the state.


31. Arizona (tie)

Change since last year: No change
Arizona isn't meeting all senior needs, but it's largely doing a passable job. In the past five years, food insecurity has increased 54% in Arizona, and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) reach is just 53.2 participants per 100 adults in poverty aged 60 and over, making the state 40th in the nation. While there's a low prevalence of obesity, with Arizona's numbers coming in at 8th in the country, only 55% of seniors have gotten their flu vaccine.


30. Ohio

Change since last year: Up four
Ohio's seniors are, overall, unhealthy. Roughly 30% are obese, 35% are physically inactive, only 70% get health screenings, 15% end up in intensive care, and 2,055 out of every 10,0000 between 65 and 75 die early. That said, the 89% of Ohio seniors who have prescription drug coverage is the highest percentage in the country.


29. Florida

Change since last year: Up three
Despite being a favorite pick by retirees, thanks to the 9.3% of seniors who drink excessively, 20% who end up in intensive care, and the abysmal 32.2 home health care workers per 1,000 adults 75 and older, Florida is in the bottom half of retiree-friendly states. Community support spending for poor seniors has increased 44% to $1,154 per person in the past three years, and in the past six years food insecurity has decreased 32%.


28. Kansas

Change since last year: Up one
Kansas is still in the wrong half of these rankings, but things are getting better. Food insecurity affects 10.2% of seniors and poverty impacts 7.3%, giving the state a top 10 ranking in both categories. The bad news is that only 46% get the SNAP coverage they need, just 56% get the flu vaccine, and 6.4% end up hospitalized by hip fractures.

Ryan McVay/istockphoto

27. Montana

Change since last year: Up one
There are some drawbacks for seniors living in Big Sky Country. Over 9% of seniors engage in excessive drinking, an increase of 12% over the last three years. The state is 89% short of the number of geriatric physicians it needs, ranking it worst in the country in that regard. As a result, only 87.5% of seniors have a dedicated health care provider, just 69% get regular health care screenings, and just 80% have prescription drug coverage. None of that is great in a state where 35% of seniors are prone to injure themselves by falling. Better news is that almost 90% know where they're getting their next meal and just 23% are obese.


26. Michigan

Change since last year: No change
Michigan remains in the middle thanks to its seniors' doughy middles. Roughly 32% of all seniors here are obese, with 7.8% drinking excessively and 28.5% considered physically inactive. While 87% have prescription drug coverage, and 95.7% have a dedicated health care provider, just 60.3% have access to the flu vaccine.

25. Virginia

25. Virginia

Change since last year: Dropped one
Seniors living in Virginia love it. More than 67% are able-bodied, 43.4% are in high health, and only 6.5% report frequent mental distress. That doesn't mean they're feeling all that secure, however. Only 40% of the state's nursing-home beds are "quality" (four-star or better), just 81% have prescription drug coverage, and almost 23% die in the hospital.


24. Idaho

Change since last year: Up three
Idaho had a small surge this year to crack the top half of the ratings, but just barely — and more because of a drop in other states as opposed to improvements in Idaho. The number of geriatric physicians it has is, like last year, 88.3% less than it needs. As a result, just 64.4% of Idaho seniors get health screenings and just 55.2% have access to flu vaccines. Excessive drinking saw a slight drop to 7.8% of all seniors, while early deaths were just 1,668 per 100,000 seniors 65 to 74. Obesity affects a little over 26% of seniors, giving the state the ninth-best ranking in the country.


23. Nebraska

Change since last year: Up two
Nebraska falls squarely in the middle of the senior health spectrum, but it is doing its best to improve. The state spends nearly $1,117 on every senior in poverty, provides 87% of seniors with prescription drug coverage, and gives 65.5% of seniors access to flu vaccines. Just don't expect much home health care, as there are only 83.7 workers for every 1,000 people over 75.

South Dakota

22. South Dakota

Change since last year: Down one
In a state where seniors are relatively poor, this ranking is a minor miracle. Eight percent of South Dakota seniors live in poverty, which means few can afford home health care workers (there are only 59.9 here per every 1,000 people over 75) or hospice care (just 41.2%). However, a good number — 50.8% — of seniors in poverty get SNAP benefits, and almost 92% have dedicated health care providers.

New Jersey

21. New Jersey

Change since last year: Up two
While New Jersey has a high percentage of able-bodied seniors and a low early death rate, there are still some problems to be solved. A sizable number — 34.8% — of seniors are physically inactive, though 41% are considered to be in high health. New Jersey ranks among the Top 10 states in the country for its number of geriatric physicians and its number of early deaths.

David Osberg/istockphoto

19. Pennsylvania (tie)

Change since last year: Down two
Pennsylvania has a senior population in which over 96% have a dedicated health care provider, almost 74% get regular health screenings, and 63.2% get the flu vaccine. However, frequent mental distress increased 37% to 8.1% of adults aged 65 and over in the last year, and the state is ranked 32nd for early deaths, with 1,847 per 100,000 adult aged 65 to 74.


19. Oregon (tie)

Change since last year: Down four
When Oregon seniors are healthy, they're really healthy. More than 76% are active (fourth in the country), 45.2% are in high health, and only 33.9 out of every 1,000 are admitted to hospitals with a preventable condition. When those seniors aren't healthy, it's dire. Despite that activity, just 64.8% of Oregon seniors are able bodied. About 47.6% of seniors with arthritis aren't managing their pain and 9.8% drink excessively.

North Dakota

18. North Dakota

Change since last year: Down one
North Dakota faces a whole lot of obstacles to caring for its seniors. Roughly 32% are obese, 34.5% are physically inactive, 10.5% smoke, and 7% drink excessively. But North Dakota is throwing everything it has at senior health. It spends $926 per person on the 9.9% of seniors in poverty. Just 7.2% of seniors here worry about hunger, and a whopping 38.7% volunteer when possible.


17. California

Change since last year: Up three
Only 5.3% of California seniors smoke and the state is the best in the country for low physical inactivity rates, so it's not surprising that just 1,503 out of every 100,000 between 65 and 75 die early. The state also comes in tops in the nation for the number of seniors who get health care screenings — 80% — though 10.2% of all seniors in California live in poverty. There are growing problems, too, with a 41% increase in senior depression over the last year.

16. New York

16. New York

Change since last year: Up two
The Empire State is up two spots from last year with good reason. Roughly 94.5% of senior New Yorkers have a dedicated health care provider, 88% get prescription drug coverage, and 72% get regular health screenings. But all of that masks some serious ills: Despite spending $994 a year on seniors in poverty, New York has more than 11% of its senior population living below the poverty line. New York seniors are still heavily reliant upon hospitals. More than 15% who are hospitalized are readmitted, while almost 30% die in hospitals.

David Osberg/istockphoto

15. Delaware

Change since last year: Down four
With a high percentage of able-bodied seniors (the top ranking in the country) and quality nursing home beds, Delaware has a lot going for it – but still has problems. Obesity rates increased 12% in the last year, with almost 34% of seniors qualifying as too heavy. SNAP reach was 31st in the nation, helping 67.8 out of 100 adults living in poverty in the state.


14. Washington

Change since last year: Up two
There are upsides and downsides to a state where seniors can be physically active. In Washington, where almost 79% of seniors are active, 475 of seniors are in high health and 36.8% volunteer. The downside is that 33% injure themselves in falls, and just 64% consider themselves able-bodied. Meanwhile, the state spends just $236 on each of the 8% of impoverished seniors who need help.


13. Iowa

Change since last year: Down three
Though 32.5% of Iowan seniors qualify as obese, putting the state at the near bottom for obesity, just 6.6% of Iowa seniors live in poverty, while 89% have prescription drug coverage. Almost 70% of Iowa seniors are able-bodied, while just 5.3% report feeling frequent mental distress. It's getting better, too, as excessive drinking among seniors decreased 19% in the past year.


12. Maryland

Change since last year: Down three 
While falling out of the top ten this year, Maryland counts almost 69% of its seniors among the able-bodied and only 8.2% of seniors among the ranks of its smokers. But the $270 it spends on seniors age 60 or over in poverty is dreadful, as is the dead-last 76% of Maryland seniors with prescription drug coverage.

Image Source/istockphoto

11. Massachusetts

Change since last year: Down four
With a state-run health care system that was the predecessor to the Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts makes senior health care a priority. The $3,048 it spends on seniors in poverty is stops in the country, and 79.6% of seniors get health screenings as a result. As a result, just 1,525 out of every 100,000 seniors between 65 and 75 dies early.


10. Wisconsin

Change since last year: Up two
This state's seniors are proactive about their health. More than 95% have designated health care providers and almost 79% get regular health screenings. The only area where this isn't the case is flu vaccinations, where a second-worst-in-the-nation 52.7% of seniors get their shots. Wisconsin seniors aren't great about their vices, either: 12% drink excessively (worst in the country) and 29% are obese.


8. Maine (tie)

Change since last year: Up six
Maine bounded up the rankings this year for good reason. About 96% of Maine seniors have a designated health care provider, while 78% get regular health screenings. So what's dragging Maine down? The 8% of seniors in poverty and the 14.3% who don't know how they're going to feed themselves.


8. Vermont (tie)

Change since last year: Up five
Roughly 68% of all senior Vermonters are able-bodied, with 49% in high health (fourth in the country) and only 4.6% ending up in intensive care (best in the country). Just 1,605 out of every 100,000 Vermonters between 65 and 75 die early, but this doesn't mean they have nothing to worry about. More than 35% of Vermont seniors are injured in falls and over 8% drink excessively.

7. Rhode island

7. Rhode island

Change since last year: Up one
If you're a senior who needs health care, few places provide it with better quality than Rhode Island. The 65.85 of "quality" nursing-home beds is second in the country, and the 97% of seniors who have a dedicated health care provider is first. Rhode Island has to have such great care, considering that its seniors are still among the unhealthiest in the nation. About 31% are physically inactive, only 28.4% volunteer, and the state provides only $252 a year to seniors in poverty.

New Hampshire

6. New Hampshire

Change since last year: Down three
Given the choice, New Hampshire seniors more often choose the "Live Free" part of the state motto over the "Die" part. A whopping 67.6% of seniors here are able-bodied, with almost 52% in high health. Thank New Hampshire itself: The state funnels $1,591 toward every senior in poverty, reducing the state's senior poverty rate to just 5.8%, the lowest in the nation. While it isn't great that 8.7% of seniors here drink excessively.


5. Colorado

Change since last year: No change
Colorado's seniors are still in really good shape. Just 22% are obese (third-lowest in the nation), just 1,454 out of every 100,000 between 65 and 75 die early (second-lowest), and 64.1% get the flu vaccine. In the past three years, excessive drinking increased by 23%, but food insecurity decreased by 60%.


4. Minnesota

Change since last year: No change
In Minnesota, just 8.5% of seniors don't know where their next meal is coming from, while just 1,496 out of 100,000 between 65 and 75 died early last year. Though roughly 69% of seniors are able-bodied, 8.4% drink to excess and in the past two years, senior smoking increased 12%.


3. Connecticut

Change since last year: Up three
In healthy New England, Connecticut comes in third by a small margin. Just 7.1% of its seniors live in poverty, just 26.4% are obese, and only 1,480 in 100,000 die early. Roughly 7% of Connecticut seniors drink excessively, though on the bright side, senior high health status increased by 12% in the last six years.


2. Utah

Change since last year: Down one
Utah had the lowest prevalence of excessive drinking (3.4% of adults aged 65 and older), smoking (5.1%), preventable hospitalizations (27.9 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees), and hospital deaths (14.1%), as well as scoring highly in volunteerism, with 44.6% of adults aged 65 and older giving their time to a cause or service. That said, Utah also has a high geriatric doctor shortfall (77.5% of geriatricians needed).

1. Hawaii

1. Hawaii

Change since last year: Up one
Only 19.8% of Hawaiian seniors are obese, the lowest percentage in the nation. Roughly 80% get regular dental visits, the highest rate in the nation. Nursing home quality is also tops in the country. Where can Hawaii improve? Well, it can improve hospitals so 24.1% of the seniors admitted don't die and boost prescription drug coverage above 84%, which ranks a dismal 34th in the nation. 

Related: 30 Unexpectedly Awesome Places to Retire Across America