By Jacqueline Shannon
Chicago scored below average nationally – No. 64 among 100 major metro areas – in the first-of-its-kind “Best Cities for Successful Aging” survey released by the Milken Institute in 2012.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank crunched the numbers on 78 factors that most affect the quality of life for people between the ages of 65-79. In addition to being rated on factors such as health care, crime rates, and weather, Milken also considered housing, transportation and economic and social engagement factors. Milken’s goal was not just to point out where each city needs improvement but also where it excels so that other cities can copy its model. This is because 90 percent of Americans want to “age in place” – that is, grow old in the home where they currently live and live in an area that is safe, affordable and comfortable.
The Chicago-Naperville-Joliet metropolitan statistical area (MSA) ranked fairly high in the transportation category – in fact, it was rated #1 among the 100 MSAs measured for having the lowest average public transportation fares for seniors. Chicago also topped most other cities in the senior employment category, especially because of its low unemployment rate (#3).
Chicago and environs scored poorly in weather (#89), income distribution (#84), the number of continuing care facilities (#99), and median house prices (#73).
So which metros did best overall? Surprisingly, some cities that forever have been touted as retirement havens didn’t even make the top 20. San Diego, for example, was #1 in weather, but sunny skies don’t trump everything. Greater San Diego ranked #25 overall, pulled down by its high cost of living (#99), median house prices (#95), rental prices (#94), and relatively high number of reverse mortgages (#96).
The top-scoring major metros were Provo/Orem, UT (#1) and Madison, WI (#2). The lowest-scoring cities were Stockton, CA (#99) and Bakersfield, CA (#100).
Milken also studied 259 smaller cities. In that survey, Sioux Falls, SD was #1 and Iowa City, IA was #2. Faring the worst were Yuma, AZ (#258) and Morristown, TN (#259).