Study: Florida least safe state for seniors

Savannah Vasquez
Gene and John Wilkins of Pennsylvania visit with a fellow snowbird as they help with the Destin Snowbirds Club's big registration event on Jan. 2 at the Destin Community Center. DEVON RAVINE | Daily News

Florida, a state known for its large retiree population, surprisingly was ranked dead last of the safest states for seniors, according to an online study. looked at five categories that affect senior well-being: fraud, housing costs, the percentage living in poverty, those who suffer violent deaths and seniors who live alone.

Florida was ranked 51st, behind 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Of the five categories, Florida ranked:

• 50th in fraud, which affected 993 per 100,000 people

• 39th in housing, with an average monthly rate of $1,077

• 43rd in poverty, with 10.2 percent living in poverty

• 39th in violent deaths, with 21.2 per 100,000 people

• 42nd in living alone, or 4.51 percent of the state population

Ruth Lovejoy, the executive director for Elder Services of Okaloosa County, said Florida's low ranking is a surprise, although she does see effects of each factor in the local community.

“That surprises me because I am thinking, ‘Why have we not heard more?’ ” Lovejoy said. “I do know that one of the things that we caution all the time is telephone solicitations. I can tell you from my standpoint, I get at least 10 calls a night coming in to my house.”

Lovejoy said seniors who live alone is common in Okaloosa County, and her agency and Meals on Wheels works hard to address that.

“Running the Meals on Wheels program, we kind of have a window into this problem and we can intervene,” she said. “I think loneliness and isolation are the enemy to people who are aging. It's a sad companion to the gift of years.”

Ashley Bailey, crime prevention specialist for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, said the rating does not surprise her at all.

“Florida has more people over the age of 55 than probably all of the other 50 states,” Bailey said.

As for the five factors, Bailey said Okaloosa is a relatively safe county and that the Sheriff’s Office tries to prevent fraud.

“Older adults are targeted for fraud and scams because they have landlines and they are home during the day more, so that makes them more susceptible,” she said. “But I can say for certain that in Okaloosa County we have some really savvy seniors.”

Find the original study at