Best Cities for Aging? – Not Medford

Carrying out the mission of our nonprofit organization, Age-Friendly Innovators, includes a great deal of market research.  This means looking at the demographics of aging, future housing needs of older adults and wading through a number of research papers and reports.

Recently, I came across a 61-page 2014 report titled “Best Cities for Successful Aging.”  The report was produced by the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank, whose mission is to improve the lives and economic conditions of people in the U.S. and around the world.  The report can be found at www.milkeninstitute.org.   The report is a subset of a larger report titled “Best Cities.”

The report introduction states “two important, unassailable facts underpin our 2014 “Best Cities for Successful Aging™” report.  Our nation is aging at an unprecedented rate, in a titanic shift that is creating the largest older population in history; and these mature adults live predominantly in urban settings.  A product of lower birth rates and increasing longevity, this phenomenon is changing the landscape of the United States and the world.”

The report ranks the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and 252 smaller metro areas in the following categories:  general (which includes 7 indicators such as cost of living, crime rate, weather, over 65 employment), health care, wellness, financial, living arrangements, employment/education, transportation and community engagement.

I was surprised and disappointed to see that Medford ranked 194th out of 252 small metropolitan areas surveyed.  Medford had an overall score of 76.42 compared to the top small metro, Iowa City, IA, which scored 100.  Individual metro scores for the 252 areas ranged from 100 (Iowa City, IA) to Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ (68.22).  Interestingly the categories where Medford scored well below the national average were health care (-25.61% below average), living arrangements (-10.71%) and employment/education (-15.57%).  Medford ranked 211th our of 252 cities in the healthcare category.

For health care, Medford had only 3 our of 16 indicators above the national average and these were:  number of hospitals with Alzheimer’s units, number of hospitals with hospice services and number of physical therapists.  Oddly, Medford ranked 61st among the 252 metro areas in “wellness,” so we must be doing something right.

There are 11 indicators within the living arrangements category and Medford ranked 5th for continuing care facilities and 20th for the percentage of houses with residents 65 or older.  However, the number of nursing beds (249th) and number of home health-care providers (190th) resulted in an overall ranking of 202 in this category.

For the average person, wading through all this data is not easy and I must admit I found it tough going at times.  What I do believe is that this report should be read and understood by our city and county administrators and perhaps there needs to be a more cohesive strategy developed for how we deal with the burgeoning older adult population.  Oh, by the way, Medford did beat out Eugene, which was ranked 196th.  No something to brag about however.  The larger Best Cities report had Medford ranked 91st out of 179 small metro areas.

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