Massachusetts is home to the nation’s highest percentage of older adults living alone who are unable to afford basic necessities without extra assistance, according to new research from UMass Boston’s Gerontology Institute.

Nearly three-fifths, or 57 percent, of adults age 65 and older who live alone in Massachusetts are unable to afford the cost of a no-frills lifestyle that pays for basics such as food, housing, health care and transportation, according to a new report, “Living Below the Line: Economic Insecurity and Older Americans, Insecurity in Massachusetts, 2022.” A quarter, or 26 percent, of older couples in Massachusetts fall below the index, the fourth highest percentage nationally.

Together, the percentages suggest that nearly 300,000 Massachusetts single and coupled residents aged 65 or older live with incomes below what it takes to cover their essentials.

The Elder Index measures the necessary costs faced by older adult households, county by county for the entire United States, to define the income level at which older people can cover necessary living expenses and remain in their homes. The index was developed by researchers at UMass Boston’s Gerontology Institute in collaboration with a national advisory board.

“We’ve seen an incredible jump in rental prices these last few years in Massachusetts,” says Jan Mutchler, PhD, director of the Gerontology Institute, who manages the Elder Index. “These increases affect older people at a level that most people don’t understand.” Average Elder Index values in Massachusetts for older adults who live alone and pay rent grew from $27,252 in 2015 to $37,308 in 2022.

Thanks largely to variations in housing costs across the Commonwealth, the Elder Index is lowest in western Massachusetts and highest in Greater Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

Read more of our June 2023 Advances newsletter