10 best cities for 'successful aging'

By Jacque Wilson CNN - It's a long-held belief that seniors, whether they retire to Florida or not, want one simple thing: to do as little as possible for as long as possible.

"That's out of date, to the extent that it was ever accurate," says Paul Irving, Milken Institute's senior managing director and chief operating officer. "Seniors want to remain active and engaged and healthy and connected to their communities. Many want to continue to work throughout life ... they want and deserve great health systems. They want to have a voice."

Baby boomers living in Provo-Orem, Utah, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are certainly in the right place. The two cities rank at the top of the Milken Institute's first "Best Cities for Successful Aging" report. Provo-Orem is No. 1 on the list of large metro areas and Sioux Falls is No. 1 for small metros.

The Milken Institute analyzed data for 78 indicators of success, including health care, housing, transportation, education opportunities and cultural experiences. They then weighted the indicators based on survey information regarding what was most important to seniors - health care and financial security landing at the top of their concerns.

While Provo-Orem and Sioux Falls rank at the top of the overall lists, the data was also broken down into sub-lists based on age. What's most important for those aged 65 to 79, after all, is not the same for those over the age of 80. For example, Boston, Massachusetts, was No. 4 on the overall list for large metros, but ranked No. 1 for those over 80 because of its reputable health care facilities.

Readers can also go the institute's website to weigh the indicators that are most important to them, creating a new set of city rankings individualized to their needs.

While many people see the older generation as a burden, Irving says, in reality they have a lot to offer the community - and leaders should have a vested interest in taking care of this population. The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank based in Santa Monica, California, that "believes in the power of capital markets to solve urgent social and economic challenges and improve lives," according to its website.

"We all know that America is growing older," Irving says. "As we looked at what was going on... some of the most innovative thinking and most helpful progress was going on at the metro, at the city level."

Rankings like this often create competition and motivate change, similar to the way college rankings inspire university presidents to focus on academics or sports scores. Here are the top overall cities for large and small metro areas:

Large metros

1. Provo, Utah

2. Madison, Wisconsin

3. Omaha, Nebraska

4. Boston, Massachusetts

5. New York

6. Des Moines, Iowa (tie)

6. Salt Lake City, Utah (tie)

8. Toledo, Ohio

9. Washington

10. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Smaller metros

1. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

2. Iowa City, Iowa

3. Bismarck, North Dakota

4. Columbia, Missouri

5. Rochester, Minnesota

6. Gainesville, Florida

7. Ann Arbor, Michigan

8. Missoula, Montana

9. Durham, North Carolina

10. Rapid City, South Dakota

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