Current Best Cities for Successful Aging – Has Your City Improved?

We all want the best for our senior loved ones.

We want them to live in the home of their choice as long as it is safe and healthy for them to do so.

Their home of choice could be the one in which they have lived all their adult lives, one that is closer to you or a center that will give them more services and socialization opportunities.

If changing locations for happiness and success over the long term is a possibility for your senior loved one, then they might want to consider some of the data from the latest report from the Milken Institute “Best Cities for Successful Aging 2014.”

80 million baby boomers are poised to redefine aging. They are working longer, more active, healthier, and looking for a different kind of retirement than their parents and grandparents envisioned.

Boomers aren’t merely looking for sunshine or warm temperatures anymore. They want livability, purposefulness and a place that supports their well-being!

Best Cities for Successful Aging Report

The Milken Institute is a self-described nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that strives to improve lives through economic and policy improvements throughout the world. Their research into livable cities is not about merely ranking best and worst but putting forth actionable ideas for change.

The Institute encourages cities around the country to become involved in programs that will improve the lives of their citizens, especially the aging population they serve.  This is the second edition and will likely not be the last. The inaugural report was released in 2012.

“Two important, unassailable facts underpin our 2014 “Best Cities for Successful Aging”™ report: Our nation is aging at an unprecedented rate, in a titanic shift that is creating the largest older population in history; and these mature adults live predominantly in urban settings. A product of lower birth rates and increasing longevity, this phenomenon is changing the landscape of the United States and the world.”

Results of the Report

The 2014 report compares and then ranks 352 U.S. metropolitan areas. They investigate how well the city enables its older citizens to not only live a healthy life but contribute to their community and to society.

The research team was searching for age-friendly cities that allowed healthy aging but also did not deter successful aging.

They measure public data in all these areas:

  • healthcare – number of healthcare professionals, number of hospital beds, facilities for geriatric/Alzheimer/LTC/dialysis/hospice/rehab, medical school affiliations, hospital ratings, rates of obesity, alcoholism rate, rate of diabetes and mental health, smoking rate
  • wellness – recreational facilities, access to healthy pursuits like fitness centers
  • living arrangements – cost of home ownership and rentals, number of other options available such as assisted living centers and home health providers
  • safety – crime rates, weather, etc.
  • transportation – public transportation, commuter fares/times, city investment in public transportation especially for older citizens, access to grocery stores and key retail outlets
  • financial characteristics – cost of living, income distribution, tax burden, poverty levels, reverse mortgages
  • employment and educational opportunities – employment growth, jobless rate, employment rate for 65+, lifelong learning opportunities
  • community engagement – volunteerism rates, enrichment programs for seniors, museums, libraries, cultural centers
  • overall livability

The report compiles data in 84 components and divides the results into three categories — 1) the overall aging population, 2) 65-79 year olds and 3) 80 and older.

Top 5 Overall Large Cities

  1. Madison, Wisconsin They have high marks for healthcare, university contributes to innovations, recreation and culture opportunities but need more work on cost of living and fresh fruits and vegetables in senior’s diets as fast food abounds.
  2. Omaha, Council Bluffs, NE/IA They have high employment of its older citizens, low cost of living and financial stability due to five Fortune 500 companies, abundance of healthcare and recreation. They could improve high crime rate and binge drinking, transportation for those with special needs and excessive sugary beverages consumed.
  3. Provo-Orem, Utah They have healthy, engaged citizens, low smoking and drinking rates, fewest diabetes, good intake of fruits and vegetables, low number of falls with injury and low crime. They could improve financial infrastructure and cost of living as well as increased numbers of doctors and nurses.
  4. Boston-Cambridge, MA/NH They boast abundant healthcare, active lifestyle and consumption of fresh foods among seniors, access to public transportation including those with special needs, vibrant intellectual and cultural community but is pricey to live there, long ER wait times and lengthy commutes.
  5. Salt Lake City, Utah Despite abundant fast food restaurants, seniors make smart food choices, strong financial base, high employment rate for seniors, access to retails outlets and living facilities but could work on events for seniors and access to special needs transportation, poor access to senior housing, and financial vulnerability in those over 65 with high rate of reverse mortgages.

Top 5 Overall Small Cities

  1. Iowa City, Iowa
  2. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  3. Columbia, Missouri
  4. Bismarck, North Dakota
  5. Rapid City, South Dakota

Goals for Cities to Become Age-Friendly

Cities are moving towards taking a more proactive approach to meeting the needs of their senior population instead of relying on safety nets that hopefully catch them in crisis. The researchers from Milken Institute have seen an improvement since the first report was published. Mayors across the country have taken a pledge to make their cities more age-friendly.

You might want to check out the goals that are included in the Best Cities for Successful Aging Mayor’s Pledge so that you can glimpse into future changes.

Prevention efforts and maximizing livability to remain independent is a strong goal for communities. Cities need to capitalize on the talents of the seniors in their communities and their passion for community service that they can bring not to mention the economic structure they contribute through taxes and business support.

The Milken Institute is hoping that competition among cities will spur new programs and best practices that serve seniors.

What Can Family Caregivers Do?

Family caregivers can advocate for their senior loved one and also those older adults in their own communities by asking if your mayor has taken the pledge. If they did, what changes have occurred or are in process to meet the goals they pledged to uphold?

If they did not yet sign, ask what can be done to move that forward.

You can learn about initiatives occurring in your city to improve the lives of all seniors. Perhaps you can get involved and enlist others to join the cause and start programs that benefit seniors. You can also read the full report and see what other cities are doing today to improve their senior experience.

Talk to you senior loved one about what they need, what would they like to see happen in their own city and work toward that.

Have you asked them if they want to stay there in that home or find a new more senior friendly community? Are they far from friends and family now? Would they like a more maintenance free home? Are they lonely and need some peer socialization?

Open a dialogue with your senior so that they will be happy, healthy and safe as they age.

4 thoughts on “Current Best Cities for Successful Aging – Has Your City Improved?”

  1. It’s great that a few of these cities are taking steps to accommodate their seniorly populations! I would also recommend that simply having more intergenerational dialogue in our society will help millenials and baby boomers better understand each other so that voting patterns will reflect the greatest good for all generations of citizens.

    • Thanks for your comment. It would be great if all generations understood the needs of others so that we could be sure everyone had the necessary resources. Many cities are starting to take steps in the right direction albeit baby steps. Advocating for universal design and increasing awareness in all age groups hopefully will be done by more in the future!

  2. Yes, cities and communities should also start (if they have not) to cater to the older generation. If healthcare, wellness, safety and other aspects are being taken care of for them in that particular area, then that’ll be a win-win situation for both the seniors and the city as well. The aging population will just choose to stay locally because they are given ample attention.

    • We couldn’t agree more, making cities more age-friendly is a definite benefit to all citizens not just seniors! Thanks for your comments!

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