The best places to grow old aren’t in Florida or Arizona, according to a report released today by the Milken Institute, a California-based think tank. Phoenix’s woeful transportation system, which offers few travel options for people too old to drive everywhere, disqualifies that purported haven for retirees. No, the best places for the fast-growing 65-plus demographic are ones more like, well, New York City.
The greater New York metro area, which ranks fifth in the Milken Institute’s survey, is buoyed less by its world-class hospitals than by its transportation system, which earned a perfect 100-point score. Those who grow old in New York can easily maintain their independence thanks to a robust transit system. The city’s density means even people who can’t walk as far as they used to have access to neighborhood amenities, and its increasingly safe streets are especially important for this particularly vulnerable group of pedestrians.
The Milken Institute says its rankings provide the most comprehensive and data-driven view of what makes an aging-friendly city, using 78 quantitative indicators. New York’s high score is largely the result of its senior-friendly transportation network; it put up middling scores in many other categories and, predictably, fared quite poorly in terms of housing affordability. Utah’s Orem-Provo area, which boasts extremely healthy habits and relatively walkable towns, came in first.
New York may have a competitive edge over its rivals when it comes to competing for those who will, eventually, want to age in place, but the region can’t rest on its laurels. Though the AARP helped pass a state complete streets bill last year, many local governments still lack such a policy. Transit cuts, such as those in New York City and Nassau County, have left some seniors feeling stranded, and older New Yorkers are still disproportionately at risk of being killed in traffic crashes.