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South Dakota is located in both the Midwestern and the Great Plains regions of the United States and is named after the Lakota and Sioux Native American tribes who still compose a portion of the population of the state. The total area of the state is 78,116 square miles, making it the 17th largest state in the nation. Yet the population is less than one million - an estimated 865,500 people call South Dakota home, which is the 46th highest in the country. The population density in South Dakota is 11.08 people per square mile, also 46th in the nation.
The capital of the state is Pierre, although the largest city is Sioux Falls. On the north side of its border there is North Dakota, on the east side there are Iowa and Minnesota, on the south side you will find Nebraska, and the west border you will find Montana and Wyoming. The closest coastline to state of South Dakota is more than 1,000 miles away. However, the state has some amazing geography. The Missouri River, for example, is the longest and biggest river in the state, but the Cheyenne, James, Big Sioux, and White rivers are also major rivers in the state. The Eastern part of the state has natural lakes and damming of the Missouri River has created reservoirs: Lake Sharpe, Lake Oahe, Lewis and Clark Lake and Lake Francis Case. The geography that really sets South Dakota apart from other states in America is the area known as the “Black Hills” and the “Badlands.”
The Black Hills are in the southwestern part of the state and cover 6,000 square miles. They are low mountains whose peaks only rise from 2,000 to 4,000 feet above the bases. “Black Elk Peak” is the highest point in the South Dakota as well as the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains and it is 7,242 feet above sea level. East of the Black Hills lies the Badlands of South Dakota, which is not just a geographical feature, but also a national park protecting 242,756 acres of land and animals.
Although South Dakota is not typically the location that one thinks of when they imagine retirees, the state has the 12th highest percentage of seniors in the nation, with 14.3% of the residents who are senior citizens aged 65 or older. However, is “The Mount Rushmore State” a wise option for seniors looking to for senior living communities in South Dakota or assisted living options in the state?
Costs of Assisted Living in South Dakota
The cost of a month of care in an Assisted Living Facility in the state of South Dakota averages $3,370 which is around $300 less than the average nationwide cost of $3,628. This difference is due, in part, to the cost of living being lower in South Dakota than it is in the rest of the United States. The cost of care in an Assisted Living facility also varies across the state of South Dakota with the costs of assisted living facilities in Sioux Falls, South Dakota costing $2,880 per month while those in Rapid City are more expensive at around $3,530 monthly. Not only do costs vary within the state, or even within the same city, but they may also vary within one facilities depending on the needs of the residents as a group or the level of care that one resident may require.
Moreover, Home Health Aides can be used to supplement assisted living (inside assisted living facilities) or simply at one’s home. Another option for senior care in South Dakota is Adult Day Care, where seniors stays at such care facility during the day but return to their own home for the night. A Home Health Aide in South Dakota carries an average cost of close to $4,500 a month – almost $54,000 per year. Adult Day Care in South Dakota carries an average fee of $1,730 monthly or almost $21,000 annually. It is likely, according to a national study conducted by Genworth, that within the next five years the cost of Home Health Aides will increase 4% and Adult Day Health Care will increase 10%.
Nursing Facility care is the right care option for those South Dakota senior citizens who need constant nursing care. Currently, it is estimated that a semi-private room in a Nursing Facility in South Dakota costs around $75,000 per year, and a private room will cost over $78,000 annually. Such costs will increase between 3%-4% in the next five years.
Finally, as the number of seniors in South Dakota increases, the regulations for nursing facilities could potentially increase as well and so will the wages of those caring for senior citizens. By the year 2030, it is projected assisted living facilities in South Dakota will carry fees of $61,200 per year, and South Dakota skilled nursing facilities will cost $113,200 for a semi-private room and over $118,000 for a private room.
Pros and Cons of Senior Living in South Dakota
When looking into senior living options in South Dakota, seniors must keep in mind:
- Cost of Living - On a 100-point scale, the cost of living in South Dakota is 96.00, which is below U.S. average.
- Crime Rate – the rate of violent and property crimes in the South Dakota are a bit lower than the national average. The crime rate for violent crimes is 3.83 and for property crimes it is 19.43, while the United States average is 3.8 for violent crimes and 26 for property crimes. The chances of become a victim of a violent crime in South Dakota is 1 in 261 and 1 in 51 for property crimes. South Dakota has a crime rate of 15 crimes per square mile, compared with the national median of 32.85;
- Taxes – South Dakota is very tax-friendly towards seniors. There are no taxes on retirement income or on any earned income. Furthermore, there are tax relief programs, refunds, and waivers on property;
- Affordable Housing – The largest difference in the Cost of Living in South Dakota versus nationwide is in housing. On a 100 point-scale South Dakota’s housing costs are at 88. There is also a South Dakota homestead exemption and bonus tax exemptions for those who are senior citizens age 65 and older;
- Unemployment – South Dakota has an unemployment rate of 4.3% and many local corporations and businesses enjoy low taxes which leads to more jobs and a better economy. Retirees don’t usually have problems finding work in larger cities such as Sioux Falls and Rapid City;
- Health – South Dakota has an average of 195 physicians per 100,000 residents while the US average is 210. Other health indexes that are rated (with 100 being the best): Air quality – 83.7 in South Dakota, 58.4 nationwide; Water Quality – 41 in South Dakota, 55 nationwide; Superfund sites – 86.1 in South Dakota, 86.9 nationwide; and Health Cost – 97.5 in South Dakota, 100 nationwide; and
- Weather – although when one thinks of South Dakota, warm weather is not typically on the list of things that would draw people to the state, yet in the Southern Hills area, an area known as the “Banana Belt,” has relatively mild temperatures – the 40s even in January. This allows year-round hiking and other outdoor recreational activities for senior citizens.
Financial Information for South Dakota Seniors
South Dakota is one of the few states in the nation that has no state income tax.
South Dakota’s state sales tax is 4%, although there may be additional municipal sales and use taxes. In 2012, the state of South Dakota repealed the refund of state taxes on food for residents with a lower-income. These funds are now used for emergency food assistance grants.
There are a few property tax relief programs that are designed to help the disabled and senior citizens. Unlike many other states, South Dakota does not tax intangible personal property.
There is no inheritance tax in South Dakota as of June 30, 2001. Due to the repeal of the federal estate tax, South Dakota has not imposed a state estate tax on those who have died since 2005.
South Dakota does not tax wages, retirement account withdrawals, public pension, private pension or income from Social Security.
South Dakota has a lower cost of living than most other states, with housing is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference. Out of 100 points, South Dakota ranked lower than the national average with a cost of living of 96. South Dakota rated lower than the average overall (96) and in the categories of: health (98), housing (88), transportation (93), and utilities (96). Only in the categories of groceries (102.6) and miscellaneous (104) South Dakota ranked higher than the national average.
Places of Interest for Seniors Living in South Dakota
Here are some places that senior citizens in South Dakota should take note of:
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial – located in Keystone, South Dakota. This is a sculpture that is carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota. It was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, along with 400 other workers. Mount Rushmore features 60-foot (18 meter) sculptures of the heads of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. The carving took a total of 14 years to complete. In a canyon behind the faces is a chamber, cut only 70 feet into the rock, which contains a vault with 16 porcelain enamel panels. These panels include the text of the “Declaration of Independence,” the text of the “Constitution,” biographies of the four Presidents on the Memorial, Borglum, and the history of the United States. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966, and in 1991 President George H.W. Bush officially dedicated Mount Rushmore. Borglum’s original plan was that the figures would be carved from head to waist but insufficient funding forced the project to end; however, even the scaled-back version cost $989,992.32 which is quite cheap for a project of that size and no workers died during the carving. Mount Rushmore welcomes more than 2.6 million visitors per year and is open from Sunday to Saturday from 5:00 am until 11:00 pm;
- Custer State Park – located in Custer, South Dakota. This is a 73,000-acre wilderness that is often compared to Yellowstone National Park due to its scenery and bountiful wildlife – a great place for seniors living in South Dakota to explore;
- Reptile Gardens – located in Rapid City, South Dakota. It is a world-renowned adventure park that has more species and subspecies of venomous reptiles than any other zoo or park in the world;
- Evans Plunge – located in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The world’s largest natural, indoor warm water pool is Evans Plunge in Hot Springs, South Dakota but Evans Plunge itself is not a “hot water spring.” Evans Plunge is 87° year-round. 5,000 gallons of water flow from the mineral springs each hour, meaning that the pool is completely refreshed several times a day. Evans Plunge Mineral Spring opened in 1890 and is the oldest attraction in the Black Hills and it is owned and operated by the city of Hot Springs. Evans Plunge is open year-round and has both an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool, as well as a health club, which is included in the admission price.
- Crazy Horse Memorial – located in Crazy Horse, South Dakota. Here, seniors will find a mountain monument under construction on privately held land which will depict an Oglala Lakota warrior called Crazy Horse riding a horse and pointing his hand into the distance. The sculpture has been in progress since 1948 and is not completed. When finished, it may become the world’s largest sculpture at 641 feet (195 m) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high. The head alone will be 87 feet (27 m) high. At completion, the sculpture/monument/memorial will be the first non-religious statue to hold the record since 1967. Ziolkowski, the man who began the sculpture, died in 1982 but his widow, Ruth, took charge and oversaw work on the sculpture from the 1980s to the 2010s. Ruth died in 2014 at the age of 87. It is under the control of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a non-profit and does not receive any funding. There is some controversy over this statue as Crazy Horse refused to be photographed and was purposely buried where his grave would not be found;
- Adams Museum – located in Deadwood, South Dakota. Here, SD senior citizens will find the oldest history museum in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was founded in 1930 by the pioneer businessman W.E. Adams to preserve and display the history of the Black Hills. Some of the treasures that are found in this museum are “Potato Creek Johnny’s Gold Nugget,” a pencil sketch drawing of Wild Bill Hickock by American illustrator N.C. Wyeth, the Theon Stone record of the Ezra Kind party’s discovery of gold in the Hills in the 1830s, and a marine reptile called a plesiosaur.
- Wounded Knee Massacre Monument – located in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Seniors can explore this monument to the natives that were killed in the Wounded Knee Massacre which occurred on December 29, 1980 on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. At least 20 U.S. soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their part in the massacre. In 1965, the Wounded Knee Battlefield became a U.S. National Historic Landmark and in 1966 it became part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places;
- USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial – located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This is a memorial which honors the most decorated battleship of World War II and the memorial is a full-size outline of the ship with historical artifacts from the ship inside of it. The USS South Dakota participated in every major battle in the Pacific from 1942-1945. The memorial is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day;
- Mt. Roosevelt Tower – also called Friendship Tower, located in Deadwood, South Dakota. Seniors living in South Dakota can visit this 31-foot stone tower with a six-foot-high platform built to honor President Theodore Roosevelt. It was the first tribute to President Roosevelt and was dedicated on July 4, 1919. Before becoming President, Theodore Roosevelt was a Medora, ND deputy sheriff in 1884 where he met and established a life-long friendship with Seth Bullock – the Sheriff of Deadwood at that time. When Roosevelt passed away, Bullock desired to create a monument to his friend which he did with support from the Society of the Black Hills Pioneers. In 1966, the Tower was donated to the United States Forest Service; and
- Wall Drug Store – located in Wall, South Dakota. This tourist attraction is known around the world and a worthy place for South Dakota senior citizens to visit. The Wall Drug Store (or simply Wall Drug) is a shopping mall containing a gift shop, drug store, restaurants, and other various stores. It is unusual in that it is owned by a single entity. It was purchased in 1931 by Ted Hustead who was looking for a small town with a Roman Catholic Church where he could start a business. He purchased Wall Drug, in a town with a population of 231 people. Business was slow in the beginning until his wife, Dorothy, began offering free ice water to those who were traveling to the newly opened Mount Rushmore which is 60 miles west of Wall. By 1981, Wall Drug claimed that they were giving away 20,000 free glasses of water during the peak of the tourist season. Since then, billboards for Wall Drug are found throughout a 650-mile long stretch of Interstate 90 from Minnesota to Montana. Wall Drug still offers free ice water along with bumper stickers “Where the heck is Wall Drug?”, “How many miles to Wall Drug?”, and “Where in the world is Wall Drug?” further aiding in the promotion. Fans of the store have contributed by adding their own billboards which state the distance to Wall Drug – one is in Antarctica and there have been pictures of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq holding signs as well.
Some cities to consider for South Dakota Senior Living
When researching the best South Dakota senior living communities, the following cities may be worth your consideration:
- Rapid City, South Dakota – a city, and the county seat of, Pennington County, South Dakota. Rapid City is the second-largest city in South Dakota after Sioux Falls and it is set against the eastern slope of the Black Hills mountains range. The city, which is also known as the “Gateway to the Black Hills” and the “City of Presidents,” is split by a low mountain range into the western and eastern parts. The town of Deadwood, South Dakota is nearby, as are the famous South Dakotan monuments of “Mount Rushmore,” “Custer State Park,” the “Crazy Horse Memorial,” and “Wind Cave National Park.” The population of Rapid City, South Dakota is approximately 74,500 residents, of which around 14.5% are age 65 or older;
- Huron, South Dakota – a city in, and the county seat of, Beadle County, South Dakota. Huron was named after the Huron Indians and the first settlement was made there in 1880. Although it was at one point the fourth largest city in the state of South Dakota, it is the now the ninth. It is home to the South Dakota State Fair, the Huron Area Community Theater, and the statue known as “The World’s Largest Ring-necked Pheasant.” The population of Huron is approximately 13,500 residents, of which around 17.9% belong to the 65+ senior living community;
- Hartford, South Dakota – a city in Minnehaha County, South Dakota. It is a suburb of Sioux Falls, and lies only a few miles northwest of the city. Hartford is also within close proximity to Brookings, South Dakota. The city was named after Hartford, Connecticut and it was incorporated in 1896. The population of Hartford, South Dakota is approximately 3,100, with around 8% of residents who are part of the senior living community of 65 years or older;
- Brookings, South Dakota – a city located in, and the county seat of, Brookings County, South Dakota. Brookings is the fourth-largest city in the state and is home to South Dakota State University, the largest University in the state. Other things to do in Brookings include: South Dakota State Art Museum, the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, the annual Brookings Summer Arts Festival, McCrory Gardens and South Dakota Arboretum, South Dakota Agricultural History Museum, Coughlin Campanile, Frost Arena, Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Brookings, South Dakota has a crime rate that is a staggering 72% lower than the state average and is full of recreation activities that senior citizens can take advantage of, such as camping, horseback riding, and fishing. Brookings is one of the safest and most vibrant cities in the state with both recreational areas as well as dining and shopping choices where seniors and all others should be able to find what they enjoy and need. The median age in Brookings is 24 (remember that it is the home of South Dakota State University) and the median household income is $45,175. The population of Brookings, South Dakota is estimated to be around 23,000 residents, of which approximately 8.5% belonging to the 65+ senior living community. Some years ago, Brookings was rated #5 on the list of the Top 10 Best Small Towns.
- Aberdeen, South Dakota – a city in Lawrence County, South Dakota. Located in northeastern South Dakota, in the James River valley, there are two dams of the James River which form reservoirs that are northeast of Aberdeen. The city itself is bisected by Moccasin Creek which flows south to northeast and into the James River. It is third-largest city in the state of South Dakota. Aberdeen is home to both Northern State University and Presentation College. The major employer in Aberdeen is Avera Saint Luke’s Hospital and other events that have occurred there recently are the plane crash that killed golfer Payne Stewart in October of 1999 as well as the town being the founding place of Super 8 Motels. Aberdeen is home to the Aberdeen Community Theatre, Storybook Land Theater productions, the South Dakota Film Festival, the nationally recognized theme park Storybook Land Theme Park, and four art galleries – Presentation College’s Wein Gallery, Northern State University’s Lincoln Gallery, the Aberdeen Recreation & Cultural Center (ARCC) Gallery, and the ArtWorks Cooperative Gallery. Six months of the year the Brown County Speedway hosts dirt track racing on Saturday nights. The population of Aberdeen, South Dakota is approximately 28,500, with around 16% of residents who are part of the 65+ senior living community;
- Lead, South Dakota – a city in Lawrence County, South Dakota which is in Western Wyoming near the Wyoming state line. Lead is located close to the town of Deadwood, leading to the two cities often being called “Lead-Deadwood.” Two of the prominent man-made features in Lead’s geography are the “open cut,” which was used for surface gold mining, and the nearby ridge that was built from the material that was not used for production from the mine. Much of Lead, over 400 buildings and 580 acres, were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The George S. Mickelson trail, which runs through the center of the city, is just one of the nearby trails available to seniors for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. There are man-made lakes, Sheridan Lake which allows for fishing and swimming, and Spearfish Canyon, north of Lead, is a popular rock-climbing destination. Two ski areas are popular in the winter that are only a few miles from Lead – Terry Peak and Deer Mountain. The population of Lead has been hovering around 3,000 for the last 20 years and 13 % of the residents are part of the 65+ senior living community;
- Yankton, South Dakota – a city located in, and the county seat of, Yankton County, SD. Yankton is the main city of the Yankton Micropolitan Statistical Area which contains all of Yankton County and it is often called the “River City” due to its closeness to the Missouri River. Yankton was the first capital of the Dakota Territory and is the location for the United States National Park Service’s headquarters for the “Missouri National Recreational River.” Here, seniors will find 26 properties and six districts that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, there are 14 municipal parks, two golf courses, and the Summit Activities Center, which is open to the public, all within the city limits. Mount Mary College, located in Yankton, operates the “Bede Art Gallery” and the “Marion Auditorium” as well as being the home to the Great Plains Writers’ Tour. Yankton is home to the Dakota Territorial Museum and an annual celebration in August called “Yankton’s Riverboat Days” which attracts over 130,000 people. Yankton, South Dakota has approximately 14,500 residents, with around 17% of residents belonging to the senior living community of 65 years of age or older. Yankton was previously named as one of the Top 100 Best Small Towns.
- Vermillion, South Dakota – a city in, and the county seat of, Clay County, South Dakota in the southeastern corner of the state. Vermillion is the eleventh largest city in the state of South Dakota and home to the University of South Dakota which has the only law and medical school in the state, as well as being the only AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accredited business school. Vermillion has plenty of green space, public parks, two swimming pools, a disc golf course, a baseball diamond, a bike trail along the Vermillion River and an 18-hole championship golf course which overlooks the bluffs in the city. The “National Music Museum” at the University of South Dakota is recognized and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and the National Music Council. The population of Vermillion, South Dakota is around 10,900 residents, with approximately 8.5% of the community who are senior citizens age 65 or older;
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota – a city in, and the County Seat of, Minnehaha County, South Dakota, although the city also extends into Lincoln County to the south. Sioux Falls is the largest city in the state, the 47th fastest-growing city in the United States, and the fastest-growing metro area in South Dakota. It is the primary city of the Sioux Falls-Sioux City Designated Market Area (DMA) which covers four states and has a population of almost 1,050,000. The Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area comprises four counties – Lincoln, McCook, Minnehaha, and Turner with Lincoln County being the fastest growing county of that group and the ninth-fastest growing county percentage-wise in the United States. There are more than 70 parks and greenways in Sioux Falls that senior citizens living there can explore, including a paved 16-mile path that follows the Big Sioux River. The “South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks” has an Outdoor Campus at Sertoma Park in Sioux Falls which hosts outdoor activities throughout the year, including star-gazing and snowshoeing. During the winter months, Giant Bear Recreation Park offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. Sioux Falls is home to many financial companies, probably due to the lack of a state corporate income tax. In addition, seniors will be delighted to know that it is a major healthcare center with four hospitals: Sanford Health, Avera McKennan Hospital, the South Dakota Veterans Affairs Hospital, and the Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota. Regarding higher education, Sioux Falls has a number of colleges included the Augustana University (formerly Augustana College), University of Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls Seminary and many others. With so many colleges and universities, there should be plenty of cultural activities and classes for seniors to take, should one be inclined to do so. Every summer Sioux Falls is host to a SculptureWalk and “First Fridays” are held the first Friday of every summer month with local business and associations in Downtown Sioux Falls, where they take part creating a major evening event, including concerts held at the EastBank. Annually, there is the “Downtown Riverfest,” the “Festival of Bands,” “The Sioux Empire Spectacular,” “Party in the Park,” “Sioux Falls Jazzfest” at Yankton Trail Park, and the “Sioux Empire Fair” held at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds. Landmarks in Sioux Falls include the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum, the U.S.S. South Dakota Battleship Memorial, the USS South Dakota, the 114th Fighter Wing located at Joe Foss field, and a replica of the famous statue “David” by Michelangelo is at Fanwick Park. The population of Sioux Falls is approximately 174,500, with approximately 11% of residents belonging to the 65+ senior living community in this college town; and
- Belle Fourche, South Dakota – a city in, and the county seat of Butte County, South Dakota. Belle Fourche (French for “beautiful fork”) is near the geographic center of the 50 United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) and that name was given to it by French explorers who came from New France in reference to the meeting of the rivers of what are now called the Belle Fourche and the Hay Creek and Redwater Rivers. Today, Belle Fourche still serves as a trade area for ranches and farms in the area as well as a gateway to the northern Black Hills. The population of Belle Fourche is approximately 6,000 residents with approximately 15.6% of the population part of the 65+ senior living community.