Rodgers and Hammerstein really might have been onto something when they declared that “There’s never been a better time to start in life- It ain’t too early and it ain’t too late!” Of course they were referencing Oklahoma, which, to some, is more than just OK. Many pre-retirees and retirees will cringe with thoughts of Tornado Alley and wide-open plains, but there is a lot to this state in terms of cost of living allowances, medical care and a diversity of people not seen in other Midwestern States.
The number of folks in pre-retirement as well as over the age of 65 now numbers well above 589,000, or 15% of the entire population. That is up 1.5% over the last six years and only continues to grow. The state is doing what it can to soften this new round of boomers and sooners by spending roughly $7,627 per person per year. Still, older adults looking to move to Oklahoma would be OK if they considered just what they might need in terms of long-term and short-term medical care. This windswept state only has one Level I trauma center and is also the home for all cancer treatments in the southwestern United States. This means that doctors and nurses can be spread thin and, so, having ready access to your medical records might be of use if you elect to live farther afield than Oklahoma City.
All that said, Oklahoma faired especially well when it came to emergency response times. This may be due in part to the network of early warning systems driven by the unpredictable, but often very dangerous, weather that can strike in the spring, summer, fall and winter! Wait times in emergency rooms only lasted 17 minutes with transfer times barely exceeding an hour. Discharge took place in just over 90 minutes and broken bones received care as quickly as 40 minutes from arrival. Still, utilizing and taking advantage of what the state’s Aging Services Division has on offer could reduce this time and get you transported to a care center faster.
As previously mentioned, health care in the state can become overburdened in a crisis, which can leave retirees in a bad way. The U.S. News & World Report gave Oklahoma a terrible ranking of 48th due to its inaccessible health care (#47), poor public health system (#45) and quality of care upon receipt (#42). McKinsey & Company also scored the state equally low at 47th with adult dental visits claiming the 5th worst ranking in the nation and overall health insurance enrollment only better than Texas. Affordability of care was deemed 9th worst by the consulting firm while Bankrate dinged the state for well-being (48th overall).
Oklahoma is trying to improve its status in the nation, but reliant on government funding and resources to maintain its many programs. The state does offer adult day services that focus on the frail so that they can age in place longer as well as provide a litany of legal services to keep seniors free from scams. There are also more unique options for older persons to include the Grandfamilies program, which offers support to those seniors who find themselves acting as parents for a second time around. Ultimately, and given the overall status of Oklahoma’s health-care system, pre-retirees looking to make the move should ensure they have enough socked away so as to invest in a durable medical alert system that is capable of transmitting long-range systems to a subscription-based network of first responders.
OK (no pun intended!), Oklahoma is not all bad, especially when older adults are looking to make their pension last for several decades. The state falls 14% below the national average for costs associated with day-to-day expenses and has a median home price of less than $100,000. Despite Oklahoma’s location in Tornado Alley, it also experiences 234 days of sunshine each year and boasts an eclectic array of delicious BBQ and fried-food joints. If this sounds like music to your ears (again, no pun intended), then consider adding this state to your short list of places to retire.