Aug. 7, 2012 at 8:18 AM ET
The Milken Institute just released its study on Best Cities for Successful Aging, and there are some enlightening and telling surprises on their list. For example, many of the biggest, most cultured, most exciting cities on both coasts rank lower than a number of fly-over cities often assumed to be boring backwaters.
So what did Milken’s researchers and data crunchers look at that made this ranking system different? They weighed in 78 factors considered to “most affect seniors’ quality of life” including economic and job conditions, housing, transportation and social engagement, in addition to the more usual crime rates, health care and weather. Cultural and educational offerings were also an important factor, demonstrated by the fact that the majority of both the large and small cities listed have a university or college.
Here, then are Milken’s top choices, with a few pithy details to back up their rankings.
Top 5 large metro areas in which to age happily and healthily
For this category, Milken looked at the 100 largest cities in the country by population and ranked them according to the same data and formula. The top 5 were:
1. Provo-Orem, Utah
Downsides: A bit bland, and then there’s the religion thing.
2. Madison, Wis.
3. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb./Iowa
Downside: Well, they are in Nebraska and Iowa.
Downside: Climate, crime and cost of housing.
5. New York/Northern New Jersey
Downsides: High cost, lack of business/employment for seniors.
Runners-Up ranked 6-10: Des Moines, Iowa; Salt Lake City, Utah; Toledo, Ohio; Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-Va.-Md.-W.V.; Pittsburgh, Penn.
Top 5 small metro areas in which to age happily and healthily
For this category, Milken looked at the 259 next largest cities in the country (after the top 100) by population and ranked them according to the same data and formula. The top 5 were:
1. Sioux Falls, S.D.
Downside: Not a strong draw for visitors, thanks to climate and invisibility.
2. Iowa City, Iowa
Downside: The population skews younger, so seniors have to work harder to find contemporaries.
3. Bismarck, N.D.
Downsides: Weather, for sure. Also availability of attractive housing arrangements.
4. Columbia, Mo.
Downside: Short on recreation and culture.
5. Rochester, Minn.
Downsides: Sluggish economy and bitter winters – unless you’re big on ice fishing.
Runners-up ranked 6-10: Gainesville, Fla.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Missoula, Mont.; Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.
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