Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



Elder Economic Security Standard Index, Elder Index, income, older adults, affordable housing, health care


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Gerontology | Public Policy | Social Welfare


The Elder Economic Security StandardTM Index (Elder Index) is a measure of the cost of living for older adults in today's economy. The Elder Index helps answer important questions about what it really takes to financially support independent living in later life. For example, what is an adequate income for older adult households to age in place? How does it vary according to life circumstances: whether they are living alone or with a spouse, renting or owning a home? How do older adults’ living costs change as their health status changes?

The Elder Index illustrates how living costs vary geographically (specifically, by county and by state), and based on the characteristics of households. Costs are calculated based on household size (one person age 65 or older, two persons age 65 or older), housing tenure (owner with no mortgage, renter, owner with a mortgage), and health status (excellent, good, poor). The expenses included in the Elder Index cover basic needs of elder households, including shelter, medical care, food, and transportation; the costs included reflect average market costs and do not take into account any needs-based subsidies. Elder Index values are calculated for a total of 18 different scenarios, and for all 3,144 counties and county-equivalents in the United States.

The purpose of this report is to describe the rationale and assumptions used in designing the Elder Index. Methodological features of the Elder Index are also described, and illustrated using selected components of the 2016 Elder Economic Security StandardTM Index calculations.



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