Explore the Elder Index


What is the true cost of growing older in America?

Knowing the answer to that question, and what resources are needed to prepare for the future, is a challenge faced by researchers, advocates, policymakers, social service providers, and individuals and families alike.

The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) offers a tool to increase this understanding. The  Elder Index present local expenses, savings requirements, and what incomes are needed to achieve economic security by family type, and at the city, county, and state levels.

About the Elder Index and how to use it

The Elder Index was developed by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston with Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), and is currently maintained through a partnership between the Gerontology Institute and NCOA. The Elder Index is a measure of the income that older adults need to meet their basic needs and age in place with dignity. The Elder Index is specific to household size, location, housing, and health status. It includes the cost of:

  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Miscellaneous essentials

Anyone can use the database to:

  • Find out how much is needed to be economically secure, by location and family type
  • Compare expenses across locations and family types
  • Download national, state, county and city index data
  • Access additional information on elder economic security

Use the Index

Highlights from the 2016 Index

Living Below the Line coverThe Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging within UMass Boston’s Gerontology Institute has published Living Below the Line: Economic Insecurity and Older Americans Insecurity in the States 2016, which summarizes what the Elder Index looks like across the states. Key findings include:

  • The 2016 Elder Index estimates that half of older adults living alone, and 1 out of 4 older adults living in two-elder households, lack the financial resources required to pay for basic needs.
    • Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont had the highest economic insecurity rate for single older adults in 2016. (See figure below.)
    • Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, and Utah had the lowest rates of economic insecurity among single older adults.
A chart showing that MS, MA, MJ, NY, and VT had the highest rates of economic insecurity for single older adults in 2016, while AK, AZ, CO, KS and UT had the lowest rates.

Chart taken from Living Below the Line: Economic Insecurity and Older Americans Insecurity in the States 2016

  • This means that a large percentage of older adults are living in a gap between poverty and economic security.
  • Individuals in this “gap” often have incomes too high to qualify for many means-tested public programs, yet too low to achieve intermediate- or long-term economic security.
  • In every state, the share of older adults living “in the gap” between the FPL and the Elder Index is larger than the share living in poverty.

To read more and find additional analyses of the Elder Index in specific states, visit the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging webpage.