Arkansas is 19th best state to grow old in, study shows

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 350 views 

Arkansas was ranked the 19th best state in which to grow old, according to a study from a Bankrate company, but it shows the state might not lag as far behind as it does in rankings for the best place to retire.

Caring.com, a website providing information and support to caregivers, looked at the financial, healthcare and quality of life aspects of each state in the study it released on Aug. 16.

Arkansas was tied for ninth place in cost and 36th for quality and life and healthcare. The state fared a lot better in the Caring.com study than it did in WalletHub’s ranking of the best states in which to retire. In that list, Arkansas was 42nd, largely because of its low quality of life rating and its healthcare access rating.

Chief economist Michael Pakko at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Institute of Economic Advancement said the limited access to healthcare in some parts of the state likely impacted the state’s ranking in the Caring.com study. But Arkansas has “fine hospitals in the metro areas.” The low cost of housing likely plays a large part in the cost of living metric, as the cost of goods are similar compared to other states. However, he said quality of life metrics are difficult to measure.

“It’s certainly a warm weather climate, and the cost of living is low,” Pakko said.

In his Arkansas Economist blog, Pakko recently wrote about the differences in cost of living between states and how to calculate the purchasing power of money in one state compared to another.

“Arkansas is a relatively low income state, but it is also a state with a very low cost of living,” he wrote. “A dollar of income supports more real spending in Arkansas than it would in other, more expensive parts of the country.”

In the Caring.com study, Utah was No. 1 with a cost rank of 14th and a quality of life and healthcare rank of seven. It was the only state to have both rankings in the top 15.

“Many states exhibit an inverse relationship between quality and price,” according to the study. “For example, Washington is tops for quality but No. 38 for cost. And while Alabama has the cheapest elder care, it lags in quality (No. 44).”

Iowa, South Carolina, Washington, and Nebraska round out the top five states in which to grow old. The worst state in which to grow old was West Virginia, behind Indiana, New York, North Dakota and Wyoming.

“We want to use this research as a starting point for really important conversations between family members,” said Caring.com vice president Tim Sullivan. “Too many people avoid thinking about senior care until it hits a crisis point. There are good options in every state, but it can take some time to sort out the best approach, so ideally you’ll get the dialogue going early to help maximize your options.”

The data used in the study included nearly 150,000 reviews of senior care facilities and in-home care providers, Genworth’s 2016 Cost of Care Survey, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and the Long-Term Services & Supports State Scorecard, which is a collaboration between AARP, The Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation.

“Contrary to many ‘best states to retire’ (such as WalletHub’s) rankings which cater to active seniors and pursuits such as hiking, golfing and traveling, this analysis centered on America’s rapidly growing elderly population and the medical and financial supports it requires in order to thrive,” according to the Caring.com study.

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