DFW Ranks No. 73 on “Best Cities for Successful Aging” List

Dallas-Fort Worth ranks 73rd among the 100 largest metropolitan areas for healthcare and amenities that promote successful aging, according to a California non-partisan think tank.

The study, calledBest Cities for Successful Aging,” by the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, looked for “safe, affordable, engaging and connected” communities for people 65 and older that offer “quality healthcare and an active lifestyle with ready access to transportation, education, employment and recreation.”

Researchers developed 78 indicators of success for seniors to rank the “best cities for successful aging.” The factors were grouped in eight categories—healthcare, wellness, living arrangements, transportation and convenience of services, financial well-being, employment and education, community engagement and general indicators. The study also drew heavily on an AARP poll of top concerns for Americans 50 and older, and a Sunlife Financial survey on retirement healthcare.

DFW ranked 76th for healthcare. The index factored in the number of local physicians and hospital beds, as well as availability of specialty services.  The metro area ranked 79th on wellness indicators, such as diabetes and residents with mental distress. The category also included the availability of fitness centers, fast-food outlets and recreational amenities.

The study downplayed two factors that are important to seniors: warm weather and low cost of living. Only one city in Florida was ranked in either top 10 list, and none in Texas, Arizona or California. Milken researchers said factors such as healthcare and employment were more important for successful aging.

The researchers gathered data to compare the 100 biggest U.S. metropolitan areas, and created a separate list for the next 259 largest cities. They also created separate rankings for each city based on the population of adults 65 to 79 years old and those 80 years and older, based on the different needs and concerns of both populations. Provo and Salt Lake City, Utah, were the top-ranked two large metropolitan areas. The top small metropolitan area was Sioux Falls, S.D.

“Cities need to be thinking about how best to make quality of life improvements for our rapidly-growing senior populations—and such improvements benefit all age groups,” said Henry Cisneros, a member of the study’s advisory committee, and the former Secretary U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and former mayor of San Antonio. “What the Milken Institute’s index does for the first time is measure communities on the dimensions that matter most for seniors. It is a real breakthrough that will be vitally helpful for leaders in making policies, creating programs, and reshaping communities.

Paul Irving, senior managing director and chief operating officer of the Milken Institute, said the goal of the index is to encourage and promote best practices in how U.S. communities serve aging Americans.

“We hope the findings spark national discussion and, at the local level, generate virtuous competition among cities to galvanize improvement in the social structures that serve seniors,” he said.

Milken Institute—Successful Aging Index

DFW Rank—Indicator

34—General

76—Healthcare

79—Wellness

14—Financial

68—Employment

25—Living arrangements

86—Transportation

76—Community engagement

Healthcare Indicators

63—Number of doctors

50—Availability of hospital beds

76—% of accredited hospitals

48—% hospitals with geriatric services

21—% hospitals with rehabilitation services

45—% hospitals with Alzheimer’s units

79—% hospitals with hospice

88—% hospitals with med school affiliation

37—% magnet hospitals

63—Number of orthopedic surgeons

64—Number of mental health professionals

26—Number of dialysis centers

15—Number of MRI

56—Number of nurses

72—Number of physical therapists

SOURCE: Milken Institute, 2012