August 14, 2012 — We’re as guilty as any other website – we just loving creating “Best of” lists about various aspects of retirement. And occasionally we like to poke fun at some of the “best” lists other groups come up with. But this past week saw a new list on the “Best Cities for Successful Aging” that is so fact based that it is hard to criticize. The Milken Institute, a West Coast think tank, has provided by far the most carefully researched and multi-dimensional study we have seen.
The Milken Institute came up with 2 different lists for its Best Cities for Successful Aging Index – Best Large Metros and Best Small Metros. There are 100 “best” metros on each. To develop the lists Milken sorted the Metros on 8 major criteria: general indicators, health care, wellness, living arrangements, transportation/convenience, financial well-being, employment/education, and community engagement. Each of the eight sub-components is comprised of multiple individual indicators — so there are 78 individual indicators in all! The Institute’s overall objective was to recognize and help seniors be safe, affordable, happy, healthy, financially secure, respected and fulfilled, and have access to the living arrangements, mobility, and transportation that suit their needs. They even go so far as to state that they want to promote competition so localities will to try to improve the social structures that serve aging Americans. In short, they want to shape the future and spread successful aging across America.
1. Some curious choices. Many of the “best” choices are towns in states that not that many people will look forward to living in, e.g.; Nebraska, Utah, Nebraska, Iowa, and Mississippi. These metros might be great on all these 78 indicators, but they flunk the weather and location test. Others are undoubtedly very nice, like New York and Honolulu, but are very expensive. That is not to say there aren’t many other wonderful choices that are not prohibitively expensive (like Pittsburgh, Ann Arbor, Chapel Hill, etc).
2. Data driven. We applaud the Milken Institute for their data-driven approach to finding a great place to retire and age. Some “best” lists are so subjective that we don’t find them very credible or useful.
3. Categories of aging. One of the very nice aspects of the Milken study is that it differentiates aging into categories – early aging (65-), and older (80+). We like that because our priorities change as we age, particularly when it comes to transportation, healthcare, and activities.
4. Each attribute is ranked by city. The best news here is that you can customize your own list – because the ranks and scores for each attribute are included. So if, in an extreme example, you are concerned about soda consumption under the “health care” attribute, you can weed out towns where sweet tooths are too acute.
5. Rank your own priorities. We recommend that every baby boomer do what the Milken Institute did in determining their best places to age lists – make a list of about what is important to you and then rank your choices accordingly. (see next point – Ranking Calculator).
6. A Ranking Calculator. The Institute has provided a ranking calculator that lets you customize your results. By changing the weighting for any or all of the 8 major indicators you can create a custom list of cities that fit your priorities.
The Milken Rankings
The Institute ranked the top 100 metros for both small and large cities. Here are the top 10 in each (overall).
Top 10 Large Metros:
Des Moine, IA
Salt Lake City, UT
San Francisco, CA
Top 10 small metros:
Sioux Falls, SD
Iowa City, IA
Ann Arbor, MI
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
Rapid City, SD
What do you think? Has the Milken Institute developed a list that works for you? Or are some our your top priorities neglected. Let us all know in the Comment section below.