People like to be surrounded by the familiar. The greetings of a long-time neighbor, the knowledge that #7 is the dairy aisle in the grocery store or the blooming of the same lilac bush every spring are all markers that we are home, where we belong. For no demographic is this truer than for seniors.
Research indicates that 90 percent of America's graying population prefers to age in place, where friends, family and a lifetime's worth of routine and experience abound. But is your area really the best place for an aging senior?
Why Are Cities Good for Seniors?
As much as you love the small town you live in, think about moving to a city as you get older. Currently live near a city? Think about staying. They offer lots of great resources for seniors, such as cultural and educational possibilities, transportation options and universities with top-notch hospitals.
Read our article how to Build Key Connections for Aging in Place »
"There's more to happiness than just sunny days," says Paul H. Irving, senior managing director and chief operating officer of the Milken Institute, a California-based, non-profit think tank. "People need to continue to work, stay engaged, stimulated and productive in order to maintain a strong sense of community involvement and happiness."
What Cities Are Good for Seniors?
In 2012, the Milken Institute released a study, "Best Cities for Successful Aging" that ranks, compares and measures 359 metropolitan areas. The rankings were based upon 78 indicators, such as health care, wellness, living arrangements, transportation and community engagement, and looked at issues as diverse as cost of living, availability of fitness centers and access to cultural activities.
Interestingly, despite popular belief, cities located in the Midwest and Northeast ranked higher among all satisfaction categories than those in the sunny South. One reason for this is the large amount of universities and other cultural institutions that offer opportunities for seniors.
While not all of the locations earned high marks in categories, most feature opportunities for seniors to live healthy, active and engaged lives. "The report underlies the importance of staying connected to your people and your life," says Irving, who lives in California near his aging mom.
See if your city made the list:
The Top Ten Large Metros
- Provo-Orem, Utah
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska/Iowa
- Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Massachusetts/New Hampshire
- New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Toledo, Ohio
- Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia/Maryland/West Virginia
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Top Ten Small Metros
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Iowa City, Iowa
- Bismarck, North Dakota
- Columbia, Missouri
- Rochester, Minnesota
- Gainesville, Florida
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Missoula, Montana
- Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Rapid City, South Dakota
Vitality, productivity and contribution can and do extend until the very edges of our lives. While needs and preferences vary, certain universal desires tend to hold true. For older Americans, the ability to age in place near those we love with health, dignity and engagement seem to top the list, no matter what city we call home.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found here.