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Community Engagement Indicators

100 large
281 small
Percent of population 65+

Data source: Census Bureau
2014 0.166 0.131
Number of arts, entertainment, and recreational facilities
Museums, movie theaters, dance companies, gambling halls, amusement parks, etc.
per capita, ‡
Data source: Census Bureau
2014 0.162 0.203
Volunteer rates for older adults
Number of 65+ volunteers divided by population 65+, ‡
Data sources: Corporation for National & Community Service, Milken Institute
2014 0.193 0.192
Number of public libraries
Per capita, ‡
Data source: Institute of Museum and Library Services
2013 0.236 0.161
Number of civic and religious organizations
Per capita, NAICS codes: 8134 and 8131, ‡
Data source: Census Bureau
2014 0.079 0.121
Funding for older adults
State funding (Title III) for older adults per population 65+, ‡
Data source: Administration on Aging
2014 0.164 0.192
* Figures may not add up to 1 due to rounding. † The lowest value is ranked highest. ‡ The highest value is ranked highest.

The "Best Cities" index looks at community engagement as a potential avenue for purpose in life, which is associated with positive health and longevity. 7, 8 We recognize the value of intergenerational relationships, and showcase a selection of Programs With Purpose that promote these interactions. We include percentage of population that is 65+ as an indicator in the community engagement category to recognize the positive impact of shared experiences and bonding among older adults on quality of life.

This category also looks at recreation, volunteering, and libraries as avenues to increase community engagement, using the same indicators as the 2014 report minus the number of YMCAs. We now capture a variable assessing civic and religious organizations that includes YMCAs, to recognize the diversity of groups and organizations an older adult can join to feel a sense of purpose and the warmth of community.

7 Boyle, P., et al., "Effect of Purpose in Life on the Relation between Alzheimer Disease Pathologic Changes on Cognitive Function in Advanced Age," Archives of General Psychiatry 69(5) (2012): 499 - 504.

8 Levy, B. R. et al., "Longevity Increased by Positive Self-perceptions of Aging," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 83(2) (2002): 261 - 70.