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Where does your city rank? New Milken Institute index analyzes 359 metros to identify Best Cities for Successful Aging

Press Release
Where does your city rank? New Milken Institute index analyzes 359 metros to identify Best Cities for Successful Aging

Among the top tier: New York, Boston, Washington— and Provo

LOS ANGELES -- The Milken Institute has created a first-of-its-kind, data-driven index, Best Cities for Successful Aging, which measures and ranks the performance of 359 U.S. metropolitan areas in promoting and enabling successful aging.

The Top 10 large and small metropolitan areas are:

Ranking: 100 largest metros
1 Provo, Utah
2 Madison, Wis.
3 Omaha, Neb.
4 Boston, Mass.
5 New York, N.Y.
6 Des Moines, Iowa (tie)
6 Salt Lake City, Utah (tie)
8 Toledo, Ohio
9 Washington, D.C.
10 Pittsburgh, Pa.
Ranking: 259 smaller metros
1 Sioux Falls, S.D.
2 Iowa City, Iowa
3 Bismarck, N.D.
4 Columbia, Mo.
5 Rochester, Minn.
6 Gainesville, Fla.
7 Ann Arbor, Mich.
8 Missoula, Mont.
9 Durham, N.C.
10 Rapid City, S.D.

The new index is an empirical analysis that examines 78 factors that most affect seniors' quality of life. These include not only health care, crime rates and weather but also economic and job conditions, housing, transportation, and social engagement factors that help create a safe, affordable and connected community for seniors. With surveys showing that the vast majority of seniors want to age in place, the Institute included measurements that reflect their needs— and how well cities meet them. The index also recognizes the new economic and social reality that, especially for the 65-79 age group, many seniors want to continue paid employment.

Provo, Utah, the top city among the largest metros, scored high in a wealth of factors: its active, healthy lifestyle (the fewest fast-food outlets per capita); a No. 1 ranking in growth of small businesses; seven medical centers in the area, three of them magnet hospitals; and one of the highest numbers of volunteers per capita. The top-ranking smaller city, Sioux Falls, S.D., has hospitals that specialize in geriatric services, and its booming economy provides a strong financial base, with the highest employment rate among seniors among the 259 small cities.

"Cities need to be thinking about how best to make quality of life improvements for our rapidly-growing senior populations— and such improvements benefit all age groups," says the Honorable Henry Cisneros, a member of the index's advisory committee, and the former Secretary U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the former mayor of San Antonio, Tex. "What the Milken Institute's index does for the first time is measure communities on the dimensions that matter most for seniors. It is a real breakthrough that will be vitally helpful for leaders in making policies, creating programs, and reshaping communities."

Other leading experts in the field made up the advisory committee; the full list is available at Nancy LeaMond, executive vice-president of AARP and a committee member, called the index "a valuable contribution to the work of creating age-friendly communities for all ages."

The Index includes two sets of overall rankings: one for the 100 most populous metropolitan areas and another for the next 259 medium and smaller cities. In addition to the overall rankings, the index breaks down results for the 65-79 age group and for those 80 and older, since the needs of the two segments vary. For instance, Anchorage, Alaska ranks 8th for the ages 65-79, partly due to abundant employment opportunities. But for the 80+ range, Anchorage falls to 67th because general indicators such as weather and cost of living assume greater importance.

One common attribute of many of the top-performing cities: the presence of a university. "These communities not only offer intellectual stimulation for seniors," explains Milken Institute Economist Anusuya Chatterjee, co-author of the report with Ross DeVol, chief research officer. "Many also have top-notch university-affiliated hospitals that provide cutting-edge health care."

"There is no more important policy and economic challenge confronting America than our aging population," says Paul Irving, senior managing director and chief operating officer of the Milken Institute and leader of the Institute's Aging Populations Initiative. "There is also considerable opportunity. Innovation and bold approaches are driving change— and much of that is happening in America's cities."

Irving said the goal of the index is to encourage and promote best practices in how U.S. communities serve aging Americans. "We hope the findings spark national discussion and, at the local level, generate virtuous competition among cities to galvanize improvement in the social structures that serve seniors," he said.

"Best Cities for Successful Aging" is available at— where you can also find an interactive database for all 359 metros and more information.