Think tank ranks best cities for aging based on 78 indicators

About Judith Graham

Judith Graham (@judith_graham), is a freelance journalist based in Denver and former topic leader on aging for AHCJ. She haswritten for the New York Times, Kaiser Health News, the Washington Post, the Journal of the American Medical Association, STAT News, the Chicago Tribune, and other publications.

There’s no doubt about it: Baby boomers plan to age in place, and they’d like to do so in communities with lots of amenities and good medical services.

Which cities deliver on this promise? An interesting new analysis from the Milken Institute of Santa Monica, California tries to answer the question.

Core Topics
Health Reform
Aging
Other Topics

Milken ranked the “best cities for successful aging” based on 78 indicators in eight categories – health care, wellness, living arrangements, transportation/convenience, financial well-being, employment/education, community engagement and general indicators.

The think tank deserves credit for recognizing that successful aging depends on the infrastructure of communities as well as the personal choices people make.

“The question wasn’t ‘what’s the best place to retire,’ but what areas have the best amenities in the future,” Ross DeVol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute and co-author of the study, told Reuters.

“I think the novelty of this is if communities, cities take this seriously, it’ll make them think about their city, their community through an aging lens,” Larry Minnix, chief executive at LeadingAge told USA Today. LeadingAge is an association that represents not-for-profit senior care providers.

Generally, I’m wary of “best of” reports of this kind because they tend to become marketing fodder for organizations at the top of the list rather than serving as truly helpful resources for consumers. But if this causes cities to sit up, take notice and think about how to better serve older residents, that’s all for the best.

If you’re asked to write about these kinds of results, be sure to contact sources who don’t have a stake in the publicity being generated. Ask about the methodology behind the report, whether it’s sound, and what’s likely to come of the findings.

Ask about recent efforts to make your city more age friendly and inquire about any recent changes to public funding for aging services. Find out how older adults of color or varied ethnic backgrounds are faring in your area. Potential sources can include gerontologists at local universities or your local area agencies on aging.

I do like the fact that Milken researchers created separate rankings for each city based on the population of adults 65 to 79 years old and those 80 years and older. Clearly, these segments of the elderly population have different needs and concerns and it’s very appropriate for the Milken Institute to take this into account in its analysis.

For a list of the top large metropolitan areas on the Milken list, click here. For list of the smaller metro areas, click here.

For other worth-noting national media coverage on the Milken rankings, see this piece by Richard Eisenberg at Next Avenue, a new website for older adults sponsored by PBS and public TV stations, and this perspective piece published in the Huffington Post.

Judith GrahamJudith Graham (@judith_graham), AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover the many issues around our aging society. If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to judith@healthjournalism.org.

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