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Best cities for elderly are in U.S. heartland, Milken report says

July 31, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Sioux Falls, S.D., has ranked in the top 10 cities for elderly residents in a study by the Milken Institute.
Sioux Falls, S.D., has ranked in the top 10 cities for elderly residents… (Jon Platek )

Utah and South Dakota do especially well in the latest listings of best large and small cities for successful aging, with each state landing spots on both lists.

In creating the lists, researchers examined 78 factors, selected with the help of an advisory council, that affect the quality of life of senior citizens. Among the factors were healthcare, crime rates and weather but also economic and job conditions, housing, transportation and social engagement factors, according to a statement accompanying the release of the rankings on Tuesday.

The report -- from the Milken Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank based in Santa Monica -- points out that senior citizens are a growing segment of the population and that they often want to age in place.

“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,” the report said.

The index assessed 100 large metro areas and 259 small areas. Provo, Utah, ranked at the top of the large metro list, and Salt Lake City tied for sixth. Among small cities, Sioux Falls and Rapid City, both in South Dakota, placed first and 10th. Bismarck, N.D., placed third.

Provo “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 institute noted.

Among small cities, it said, 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,” stated Henry Cisneros, a member of the index's advisory committee, former Housing and Urban Development secretary, and former mayor of mayor of San Antonio.

“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.”

According to the report, the Top 10 large metropolitan areas in order are: Provo, Utah; Madison, Wis.; Omaha; Boston; New York; Des Moines, (tie); Salt Lake City (tie); Toledo, Ohio; Washington; and Pittsburgh.

The Top 10 smaller metropolitan areas are: Sioux Falls, S.D.; Iowa City, Iowa; Bismarck, N.D.; Columbia, Mo.; Rochester, Minn.; Gainesville, Fla.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Missoula, Mont.; Durham, N.C.; and Rapid City, S.D.

One common attribute of many of the top cities is the presence of a university.

“These communities not only offer intellectual stimulation for seniors,” stated 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.”

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Join Michael on Google+. Email: michael.muskal@latimes.com

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