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JUST ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW: So, in what city do you plan to grow old?

Mikel Kelly is the former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times, The Times as well as the Lake Oswego Review. He is now chief of the central editing and design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.I do a fair amount of thinking about my advancing age, now that my 65th birthday is drawing near (I’m registered at all state liquor stores, if you’re thinking about a gift) — and one of the considerations about that is where, exactly, would I want to live out my golden years?

Quite conveniently, for me and the 27 grillion other baby boomers careening toward genuine old age, a “nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank” based in Los Angeles has been studying this subject, and the results of that study have been released in a report titled “Best Cities for Successful Aging.”

In late July, the Milken Institute (motto: “Changing the World in Innovative Ways”) announced that it had created “a first-of-its-kind, data-driven index . . . which measures and ranks the performance of 359 U.S. metropolitan areas in promoting and enabling successful aging.”

Confronted with this news, I (motto: “Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”) recognized right away that this could be important information. I’m aging. I have to live somewhere. Let’s see where this goes.

In a note introducing the news about the study, the think tank’s director of communications explained this research “compares and ranks the performance of 359 metropolitan areas in enabling successful aging, utilizing 78 indicators that determine the overall quality of life for seniors.”

In the report itself we soon come to the two top-10 rankings provided by the Milken Institute: the 100 largest metro areas, from No. 1 on down, and an equivalent list for the “259 smaller metros.”

I need to warn you: Most of the cities on this list are not places you would be likely to plan your next vacation.

The top three in the large-city group were Provo, Utah; Madison, Wis.; and Omaha, Neb.

And I think I can comfortably say I will never get to any of the 10 cities on the other list. They are: Sioux Falls, S.D.; Iowa City, Iowa; Bismarck, N.D.; Columbia, Mo.; Rochester, Minn.; Gainesville, Fla.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Missoula, Mont.; Durham, N.C.; and Rapid City, S.D.

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a look at the website and more complete listings of cities at Milkeninstitute.org/successfulaging. What I found was, in the large metro areas, Portland ranked 24th (right between Harrisburg, Pa., and San Diego), and Seattle was further down the list, at No. 58.

In the small-metro listing, Oregon cities included Bend (50), Corvallis (82), Medford (118), Eugene-Springfield (174) and Salem (209).

I know what you’re wondering. How did all these un-sexy cities get such high rankings? It’s true that Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., all made the top 10 lists, but so did two towns in Iowa, as well as two in Utah and South Dakota. For the answer to that, we need to review the process they went through.

“The new index is an empirical analysis that examines 78 factors that most affect seniors’ quality of life,” the report explains. “These include not only health care, crime rates and weather but also economic and job conditions, housing, transportation and social engagement factors that help create a safe, affordable and connected community for seniors. With surveys showing that the vast majority of seniors want to age in place, the institute included measurements that reflect their needs — and how well cities meet them. The index also recognizes the new economic and social reality that, especially for the 65-79 age group, many seniors want to continue paid employment.”

OK, after a paragraph that saturated with information, I think we need to take a break. It also wouldn’t hurt to review some of the sad facts about human nature.

First of all, I wouldn’t seriously consider moving to any city outside Oregon to live for very long (I don’t even like crossing the Columbia River to that other, oddly different state to our north) — with one exception. The other person who lives at our house gets so severely depressed by the lack of sunlight here during the winter, she’s been lobbying for some time now to find a “snowbird” destination in, say, Arizona. I’m all for that because (A) I like being wherever she is; and (B) I like sun, too.

But let’s face it, where geography is concerned, we’re snobs. Having lived in all parts of my home state now, I can safely say there are pluses and minuses to all of them, but I don’t really want to be too far from Portland. I need an assortment of restaurants and movie theaters and places to go hear music, if I choose to do that. I don’t often choose to, I admit, but I like knowing that’s an option.

In addition to all the research done by the folks at the Milken Institute, I have some observations of my own:

n My good friend Kevin used to live in Toledo, Ohio (No. 8 on the large-city list), and he swears he’s never going back there. I know you don’t know him, but I for one always take Kevin’s opinions very seriously.

n I knew a guy named Ron in the Navy from Des Moines (No. 6 on the same list), and he was really, really weird. It’s quite possible the city he was from had nothing to do with that, but I’m just saying.

n Tom Petty used to live in Gainesville, Fla. (No. 6 on the small-city list), and he left there for L.A., so how great can Gainesville be?

There’s no denying that quick access to good health care is huge for old people. I already take enough pills every day to choke a greedy black Lab — and, at my age, fairly useful organs can just fall off while you’re walking down the street. Therefore, little mom-and-pop hospitals and clinics are no longer good enough for me and others in my age group.

So, thanks a lot, Milken Institute, for the information. I still intend to visit New York City and Washington, D.C. But I’m afraid Utah, Iowa and South Dakota are just going to have to get along with me.




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