At a recent speaking event at an Arizona continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community), someone mentioned to me that they assumed that the state of Arizona would have a lot of CCRCs relative to the number of older adults in their population. I told her that even though one might logically think this to be true, it may or may not be the case.
But the comment got me curious: Which states have the most CCRCs per capita of residents over age 65? So, I did some research, crunched the numbers, and here are my findings about the top 25 states with the highest number of CCRCs relative to their age 65 and over population (PDF). (Ideally, it would have been age 75 and over since few residents move into CCRCs at age 65, but that statistic is much harder to come by on a state-by-state basis.)
As you look over this PDF chart, keep in mind that CCRCs are defined differently by various states, so the exact number per state is somewhat debatable, especially in states that don’t regulate CCRCs. The numbers we used in our chart are based on a Senate study from 2008, and so numbers certainly will be a bit higher today than at that time.
States with the most CCRCs per senior
Turns out, this woman’s hunch about Arizona wasn’t too off. Based on my data and analysis, that state comes in at number 15 for CCRCs per senior. In that state, there are 668,000 seniors (or 16 percent of their population) with 33 Arizona CCRCs.
Here are a few other observations based on my findings:
- When people think of the states with the most CCRCs, they tend to think of states like Florida or Arizona. (Florida does have the most seniors as a percentage of their total population.) However, in terms of CCRCs relative to the senior population, people may be surprised to learn that at the very top of the list are Midwestern states, including Kansas, South Dakota, and Iowa. This is likely the result of the Midwest migration that took place in the U.S. during the 1800s, which helped prompt the emergence of some of the first non-profit homes for the aged.
- Pennsylvania and Ohio are the next two down on the list, which also happen to have the highest total number of CCRCs, respectively.
- Even though Pennsylvania has more than twice as many CCRCs as Kansas, it only has half the number as percentage of their retiree population.
- Florida and California are near the top of the list in terms of total number of CCRCs, yet they rank 21 and 22 in terms of the number of CCRCs relative to their age 65 and over populations.
- There are a handful of states on this list that have fewer than five CCRCs. Yet, they obviously have very small populations of people age 65 and over, and so as a percentage, they still rank above some other states.
>> Free Resource: Which states regulate CCRCs? (PDF download)
The logic behind CCRCs’ location
It may be surprising to many that even with the top state shown—Kansas—the approximate number of CCRC residential units could house less than 6 percent of their senior population. Part of the reason for this is that developers of CCRCs don’t just look at population figures at the state level.
Because CCRCs typically cater to seniors in the higher end of the wealth spectrum (though I hope to see this change in the future), developers also factor in things like economics and real estate prices when determining where to build. In this respect, the total number of retirees in a geographic location may actually be somewhat irrelevant in relation to where these communities are being built.
Yet, when I compare my spreadsheet’s data to the states with the wealthiest retirees—Maryland, California, Virginia, Alaska, and Colorado—I still can’t draw many parallels. So, it makes me wonder if there is any real rhyme or reason to where CCRCs are being developed.
States with growing senior populations
There are several states that you probably think of having a large number of seniors simply by virtue of their overall large populations:
- California has 3.6 million people age 65 and over, which is about 13 percent of their total population, according to 2000 Census data, and there are 129 California CCRCs.
- There are 101 CCRCs for Florida’s 2.8 million seniors, who account for nearly one-fifth of the state’s residents. If you assume the average CCRC has roughly 300 residential units, these Florida CCRCs would have enough units for barely 1 percent of the state’s seniors.
- Texas has over 2 million seniors, or 11 percent of their overall population, and there are 86 Texas CCRCs.
A recent article in U.S. News & World Report looks at the numbers from a different angle, showing the states with the fastest growing senior populations (as a percentage of a state’s overall population).
Somewhat surprisingly, number one on the U.S. News list is Alaska. According to data from the Administration on Aging, there are 77,206 people age 65 and older in Alaska, and the state’s senior population increased by 65.6 percent between 2006 and 2016. According to our data, Alaska has just one CCRC.
Second on U.S. News’s list is Nevada, which now has 441,142 seniors, or about 15 percent of their overall population. That’s a 57.3 percent increase over the decade that ended in 2016. Nevada also didn’t make my list of the top 25.
Colorado comes in third on the U.S. News list of states with the fastest growing senior populations. That state’s population of people age 65 and over has increased by 55 percent to 743,524 over the past 10 years—that accounts for 13 percent of Colorado’s residents. But yet again, despite having nearly three-quarters of a million older people, the number of Colorado CCRCs per senior are not in the top 25 on my spreadsheet.
CCRC hot spots of the future?
Looking at all of these figures, states with ballooning senior populations like Nevada and especially Colorado—which has a fast-growing population of seniors, a good percentage of whom are also wealthy—could hold a lot of potential for CCRC developers.
Yet, while one might think that we would begin to see more CCRCs, along with other types of senior living providers, developed in these states that are increasingly popular with retirees, I’m unclear if that will be the reality based on the data I collected within my spreadsheet. Hopefully CCRC developers will begin to look at this type of data and seize the opportunity to create communities that will attract these states’ growing senior populations.