Successful Aging: Where Do You Want to Grow Old?

Valorie Rice, Senior Specialist, Business Information

If you want to be a part of a thriving community that will allow you to be active and engaged well into your retirement years, where would that be? The Milken Institute recently released the 2016 Best Cities for Successful Aging report ranking metropolitan areas that successfully support an aging population and in the process make them more livable for all generations. This article assesses how the 12 MAP Dashboard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) ranked in the Successful Aging report. The 12 MSAs included on the MAP placed well with both Salt Lake City (4) and Austin (6) in the top ten. The lowest ranking were Albuquerque (87) and Phoenix (88). Tucson was at 60, which positioned it near the middle of both the overall ranking of 100 large metropolitan areas in the report and among MAP Dashboard MSAs, see Figure 1.

Figure 1: Rank of Best Cities for Successful Aging (2016)   
Please Note: Shorter Bars Indicate Higher Rank

Why is this important? Projections show that by 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or over (the youngest of the baby boomer generation will reach age 65 in 2029)¹. As the baby boomers age, communities that reflect an age-friendly environment will become more and more important.

The report uses 83 different indicators grouped into nine categories – general livability, health care, wellness, financial security, education, transportation and convenience, employment, living arrangements, and community engagement. General livability, health care, wellness, and financial security receive the most consideration in the overall index. The index is broken down into two age groups, because age related needs change over time. Financial security and wellness hold more weight for the age 65-79 index, while health care and living arrangements receive more weight for the age 80+ index. There were only minor changes in the placement of MAP Dashboard geographies when breaking out scores for the specific age ranges, see Figures 2 and 3 for the rankings.

Figure 2: Rank of Best Cities for Successful Aging for Age 65 - 79 (2016)
Please Note: Shorter Bars Indicate Higher Rank

Figure 3: Rank of Best Cities for Successful Aging for Age 80+ (2016)
Please Note: Shorter Bars Indicate Higher Rank

Tucson was right in the middle of the pack when comparing the 12 MSAs explored on the MAP, and ranked 60th out of the top 100 metropolitan areas included in the report. There were, however, a few areas where Tucson really stood out. Tucson ranked in the top 20 in three different categories: 4th in general livability, 15th in wellness, and 17th in education. Table 1 displays how Tucson ranked in all nine categories. General livability included such indicators as cost of living, crime rate, internet access and income distribution, all of which we also track on the MAP Dashboard. Only San Diego ranked higher than Tucson in the general livability category among MAP metros. Wellness included such things as obesity rate, physical activity, air quality, and life expectancy. Education included educational attainment, college enrollment, and the number of universities and community colleges.

Table 1: Tucson Category Rankings

CategoryRank (out of 100)
Community Engagement91
Financial Security90
General Livability4
Health Care85
Living Arrangements44

To learn more about the Best Cities for Successful Aging rankings, visit the interactive data site at

1. Colby, Sandra L. and Jennifer M. Ortman, Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060, Current Population Reports, P25-1143, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2014.