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; and access additional information on elder economic security.

Use the Index

Get our guide to using the Elder Index

Guide to Using the Elder IndexNCOA’s Guide to Using the Elder Index is a tool for state and local advocates and aging service providers that provides:

  • An introduction to the Elder Index and the associated Elder Economic Insecurity Rates (EEIRs) and an explanation of how they are best presented to specific audiences
  • Suggestions for how caseworkers and advocates can use the tools to communicate seniors’ needs and apply them directly in their daily work
  • Ideas on how to talk about the tools and integrate economic security messaging into an organization’s work, or even its mission
  • A customizable economic security advocacy fact sheet that can be used for education and outreach.

Learn more in our archived webinar

On April 26, 2017, NCOA hosted a webinar with UMass Boston on the Elder Index and how to use it. The webinar featured testimonials from organizations/states that have incorporated the Index into their aging services programs and policies. Access the webinar recording and download the slides.

Highlights from the 2016 Index

Living Below the Line coverThe Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging (CSDRA) 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

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.

Nationwide disparities

In addition to the full report Living Below the Line, CSDRA has also produced the following in-depth examinations of economic security disparities:

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.