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Best Cities to Retire

by Douglas Burger

 
 
 
 

Life is full of achievements, from graduations to promotions and buying a house, all the way to retirement. It’s important for us to celebrate and reward ourselves for those achievements. For retirees, enjoying the golden years is what all that hard work was about. Seeking to determine the best cities in the U.S. for retirees, we used 24 data points from nine sources. Below you will find the results, as well as a detailed methodology describing how we arrived at them. 

Best Cities to Retire

Here is how 200 metropolitan statistical areas with qualifying data stacked up in the three separate categories that we studied. In all rankings below, a lower number is better than a higher number.

Rank City Housing and Taxes Healthcare and Safety Travel and Leisure
1 Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL 7 35 53
2 Fort Collins, CO 38 7 87
3 San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA 54 22 12
4 Prescott, AZ 4 63 94
5 Jacksonville, FL 39 13 38
6 Boise City, ID 56 3 33
7 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 22 47 22
8 Santa Rosa, CA 71 42 9
9 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 81 21 18
10 Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL 27 34 49
11 Bremerton-Silverdale, WA 36 30 129
12 Boulder, CO 84 8 68
13 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 30 57 48
14 Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 45 55 60
15 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 5 78 85
16 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 45 32 36
16 Olympia-Tumwater, WA 52 23 156
18 Reno, NV 8 92 76
19 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 9 96 160
20 Columbia, SC 37 28 62
20 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 76 38 6
22 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 96 20 1
23 Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA 87 58 5
24 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 58 17 133
25 Colorado Springs, CO 53 98 52
26 Kennewick-Richland, WA 78 2 111
27 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 104 15 18
28 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 29 132 20
29 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 79 39 7
30 Gainesville, FL 55 43 54
31 Charlottesville, VA 67 41 158
32 Provo-Orem, UT 95 11 109
33 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 32 76 78
34 Chico, CA 47 79 25
34 Jackson, MS 40 9 152
36 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 30 49 161
37 Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 13 130 166
38 Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 122 44 8
39 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 11 142 151
40 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 61 63 69
41 Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV 28 88 98
42 Anchorage, AK 106 31 82
43 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 10 99 178
43 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 101 51 63
45 Ocala, FL 6 164 107
46 Tucson, AZ 1 185 57
47 Port St. Lucie, FL 15 127 195
48 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 114 44 3
49 Salt Lake City, UT 117 25 70
50 Portland-South Portland, ME 144 1 99
51 Columbus, GA-AL 63 29 126
52 Albuquerque, NM 14 151 43
52 Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 2 192 92
54 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 126 35 2
55 Richmond, VA 112 55 58
56 Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 25 77 145
57 Urban Honolulu, HI 48 163 13
58 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 151 27 32
59 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 20 173 66
60 Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 57 88 77
61 Greeley, CO 84 110 88
62 Duluth, MN-WI 137 4 169
63 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 97 53 47
64 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 19 189 34
65 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 142 26 10
66 St. Louis, MO-IL 107 81 31
67 Asheville, NC 35 160 128
67 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 184 10 21
69 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 18 154 104
70 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 193 12 40
71 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 179 17 25
72 Huntsville, AL 3 193 117
72 Tallahassee, FL 51 174 46
74 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 137 86 4
75 Roanoke, VA 72 119 131
76 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC 88 134 37
77 Tuscaloosa, AL 44 105 123
78 Pittsburgh, PA 132 52 100
78 Springfield, MO 65 117 85
80 Bakersfield, CA 108 84 14
81 Montgomery, AL 12 169 133
82 Austin-Round Rock, TX 140 70 27
83 Sioux Falls, SD 109 48 127
84 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 91 90 81
84 Shreveport-Bossier City, LA 15 181 75
86 Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA 21 125 200
86 Madison, WI 185 6 102
88 Raleigh, NC 131 93 30
89 Lynchburg, VA 66 175 95
90 Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO 69 112 132
91 Knoxville, TN 17 162 148
91 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 49 151 50
93 Lafayette, LA 41 165 55
94 Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS 23 137 159
95 Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 42 139 113
96 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 100 97 45
97 Salinas, CA 128 113 11
98 Norwich-New London, CT 162 65 74
99 Fort Wayne, IN 94 83 166
99 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 174 33 96
101 Visalia-Porterville, CA 125 73 56
102 Evansville, IN-KY 75 99 193
103 Baton Rouge, LA 50 158 64
103 Eugene, OR 111 103 115
105 Fresno, CA 127 95 17
106 Ann Arbor, MI 168 5 190
107 Charleston, WV 25 157 174
108 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 136 59 150
109 Wilmington, NC 62 194 89
110 Fort Smith, AR-OK 43 126 171
111 Spartanburg, SC 34 135 180
112 Kansas City, MO-KS 160 80 39
113 Barnstable Town, MA 103 166 113
114 Clarksville, TN-KY 70 127 121
115 Salem, OR 146 118 41
116 Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL 102 99 184
116 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 123 65 177
118 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 139 75 79
119 Chattanooga, TN-GA 33 180 170
120 South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI 77 136 188
121 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 163 40 165
122 Yakima, WA 105 105 130
123 Lexington-Fayette, KY 92 121 109
124 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 170 35 189
125 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 178 91 67
126 Cedar Rapids, IA 159 62 156
127 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 149 71 59
127 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 74 179 61
129 Columbus, OH 180 24 105
130 Salisbury, MD-DE 97 139 182
131 Greensboro-High Point, NC 68 150 163
132 Topeka, KS 129 107 112
133 Green Bay, WI 191 17 172
134 Manchester-Nashua, NH 197 16 186
135 Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA 158 49 138
136 New Haven-Milford, CT 186 72 72
137 Mobile, AL 24 191 164
138 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 199 54 65
139 Savannah, GA 90 127 119
140 Corpus Christi, TX 64 199 73
141 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 190 60 116
142 Oklahoma City, OK 82 148 139
143 Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 86 169 44
144 Macon, GA 59 160 153
145 Appleton, WI 200 14 173
146 Springfield, MA 176 61 140
147 Killeen-Temple, TX 114 139 84
148 Merced, CA 119 155 16
149 Lubbock, TX 118 115 93
150 Stockton-Lodi, CA 135 149 15
151 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 157 46 155
151 Lansing-East Lansing, MI 145 103 187
151 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 89 178 51
151 Winston-Salem, NC 60 187 191
155 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 129 159 35
156 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 166 99 71
157 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 73 177 118
158 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 198 74 91
158 Rochester, NY 177 67 149
160 Modesto, CA 154 111 23
161 Lincoln, NE 196 68 143
162 Erie, PA 143 107 135
163 Syracuse, NY 171 85 136
164 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 181 86 142
165 Worcester, MA-CT 192 68 101
166 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 153 130 28
166 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 121 138 146
166 Kalamazoo-Portage, MI 156 81 199
169 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 124 124 196
170 York-Hanover, PA 181 121 108
171 El Paso, TX 97 186 97
172 Wichita, KS 152 145 82
173 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 172 132 42
174 Amarillo, TX 93 181 144
175 Fayetteville, NC 110 169 89
176 Tulsa, OK 80 195 154
177 Burlington-South Burlington, VT 195 113 147
178 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 189 116 23
179 Flint, MI 116 169 185
180 Binghamton, NY 155 144 192
180 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 147 142 122
182 Peoria, IL 150 151 168
183 College Station-Bryan, TX 141 121 124
184 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 175 109 106
185 Dayton, OH 112 176 179
186 Lancaster, PA 167 146 197
187 Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 83 196 198
188 Reading, PA 183 167 79
189 Laredo, TX 134 197 29
190 Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ 188 94 103
190 Utica-Rome, NY 161 120 194
192 Canton-Massillon, OH 133 190 176
193 Trenton, NJ 164 181 120
194 Champaign-Urbana, IL 165 147 175
195 Waco, TX 119 198 141
196 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 173 168 137
197 Akron, OH 147 188 183
198 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 194 156 125
199 Toledo, OH 169 184 162
200 Rockford, IL 187 200 181

Best and Worst Cities...

In order to best represent a retiree’s interests, we broke down our 24 data points into four specific categories. Below is an explanation of each category and why we feel it is important as well as detailed descriptions of some of the data points that compose them. 

Housing and Taxes

Many retirees downsize their living space when retirement age hits. The kids have moved out and a large home isn’t needed anymore. Retirees want to decrease their expenditures as much as possible to maintain financial stability and focus on enjoying themselves. We felt housing costs and taxes were important in this case. The U.S. Census Bureau, which provided us with 11 data points, showed the mean retirement income for a city’s population 65 and older. 

Healthcare and Safety

As people grow older, healthcare becomes more of a necessity. Retirees want to know that if a medical problem does arise, they will be taken care of. Another thing that brings peace of mind is a city’s safety. Using the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s crime data, we looked at the number of burglaries in a city. In order to account for a city’s population, we measured the data point per 100,000 residents. 

Travel and Leisure

Have you ever dreamed of taking a trip, traveling to all the countries you want to see but then time and money shatter the dream? For retirees, some of those hurdles are removed. We felt it was important that a city provide multiple options and resources for retirees to spend their free time -- from airline flights to favorable outside weather. Using the U.S. Census Bureau, we took a look at the number of services for the elderly and people with disabilities per 1,000 residents 65 and older. 

Quality of Life

Lastly, we wanted to look at overall quality of life. Do retirees have the free time and financial stability to enjoy themselves? These last four data points help us get a fuller picture of retired life. Not all our data points were available at the city level, but for data we felt was important we were able to stretch state data to each city within that state. The United Health Foundation provided three of these data points, including percentage of adults aged 65 years old and older who self-report very good or excellent health.

Methodology

In order to determine the best cities for retirees, we looked at 24 data points from nine reputable sources. Not all data points had data available for every city. In these cases, cities without a data figure were given a last-place ranking in that specific category. Incomplete data points were given a lower weighting (in parenthesis below) in order to accommodate for missing data. The four separate categories were also weighted to best capture what we believe is most important to retirees. 

Every retiree is going to have different priorities when he or she decides -- or is able -- to put the 9 to 5 in the rearview and look forward to some much-deserved R&R. Our 24 data points attempted to capture all the different aspects of an enjoyable retirement –- from quality healthcare to leisure activities and the financial stability to enjoy them. 

Below, we breakdown each statistic and point to its origin. Those marked with an asterisk are state-based (not city-based).

Housing and Taxes (3)

1. Percentage of population 65 years old and older U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
2. Mean retirement income for population 65 years old and older
3. Median selected monthly owner costs with a mortgage for population 65 years old and older (.5)
4. Median selected monthly owner costs without a mortgage for population 65 years old and older (.5)
5. Property taxes paid as a percentage of owner-occupied housing value * Tax Foundation (2014)
6. State and local individual income tax collections per capita *
7. Median Sales Price of Existing Apartment Condo-Coops Homes (.5) National Association of REALTORS (2015)

Healthcare and Safety (2)

8. Number of hospitals per 1,000 residents 65 years old and older U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
9. Number of assisted living facilities per 1,000 residents 65 years old and older U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
10. Number of health practitioners per 1,000 residents 65 years old and older U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
11. Percentage of certified nursing home beds rated 4- or 5-stars * United Health Foundation (2016)
12. Instances of violent crime per 100,000 members of the population FBI (2014)
13. Instances of burglary per 100,000 members of the population

Travel and Leisure (1)

14. Number of golf courses and country clubs (.5) U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
15. Services for the elderly and people with disabilities per 1,000 residents 65 years old and older U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
16. Average number of days per year with precipitation (1.5) National Centers for Environmental Information (2014)
17. Average number of days per year with a temperature below 32 and above 90 (1.5)
18. Walkability rankings (.5) Walk Score (2016)
19. Percentage of adults aged 65 years old and older with fair or better health status who self-report doing no physical activity or exercise other than their regular job in the last 30 days * United Health Foundation (2016)
20. Number of non-stop international flights (.5) U.S. Department of Transportation (2015)

Quality of Life (1)

21. Percentage of population 65 years old and older living with and responsible for grandchild(ren) (.5) U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
22. Percentage of the population below 100 percent of the poverty level aged 65 years old and older U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
23. Percentage of adults aged 65 years old and older who self-report very good or excellent health * United Health Foundation (2016)
24. Community well-being Gallup (2015)

Experts' Take

← Pamela Atwood is a gerontologist working as the director of dementia services for Hebrew Healthcare in West Hartford, Conn.

1. What factors should be considered when determining the best cities for retirees?
Transportation that is accessible, safe and affordable; strong social support networks -- whether for bridge or aging and HIV; access to geriatricians, specialists and a broad spectrum of community services. 

2. How is a city affected both positively and negatively by the number of retirement-age people?
Positive would be inter generational influence, living history, tolerance of different cultures and perspectives, greater human development, which continues throughout the lifespan. 

3. How has retirement lifestyle changed in the last 10, 20, 30 years?
Retirement has changed drastically and will continue to. Currently, retirees are much more engaged in their communities, policy-making and influencing the economy. In the past, disengagement was expected and considered normal. Now we expect activity at the same or cose to the same level as pre-retirement. We are also seeing more grandparents retiring to take care if grandchildren as alternatives to institutionalized child day care.  

4. How do retirees affect the job market? Is the retirement age going up a good or bad thing?
The job market is difficult. Overall, older workers have great experience and are generally open to trying new things; resistance to change is a myth. A major challenge is caregiving issues and need for job accommodations for physical limitations, like ergonomics for neck pain or surgery for carpal tunnel. There's also the myth that they compete with younger people for jobs: With the squaring of the pyramid population-wise, there won't be enough workers. 

← Scott Page is an author and the president and CEO of the Lifeline Program in Tucker, Ga.

1. What factors should be considered when determining the best cities for retirees?
Healthcare, as we age we require more frequent visits to the doctor. Make sure that you target places with the quality health care that you will need, and be sure it is easily accessible. Having to travel long distances to the doctor’s office is not a good idea.
Consider cost of living: Search for Cities that are located in tax-friendly states. The last thing you need is the IRS asking for part of your Social Security check.
Then there's climate: Never underestimate the power of mother nature. Unless you are going to pay someone to shovel snow or transport you in a four-wheel drive, set your sights on a place you can enjoy a breath of fresh air without freezing to death in the process. 

2. How is a city affected both positively and negatively by the number of retirement age people?
There is strength in numbers. Look for cities with a large population of folks your own age. This will naturally bring more business and services focused on the population and make life much easier. 

Also, while a large senior population will require the proper infrastructure to accommodate them, it comes with the benefits of more tax revenue, lower crime and a vast wealth of experience and wisdom. 

3. How has retirement lifestyle changed in the last 10, 20, 30 years?
The good news is, people are living longer. The bad news is, how are you going to pay for it? Longevity has increased over the years and so have advances in health care. Seventy is the new 60! Stay active and focus on activities that engage your mind and body since studies reflect doing so will help you live a longer and happier life.

4. How do retirees affect the job market? Is the retirement age going up a good or bad thing?
This is a great thing. We all know that the younger generation is not interested in actually working for a living, so employers are focusing on hiring active seniors. Not only because they will take the position, but they are more responsible, have great experience, have life-long skills and they are not focused on playing with their phones all day.

← Martha Haltaman is a funeral director at All Faiths Cremation Society in The Villages, Fla.

1. What factors should be considered when determining the best cities for retirees?
There are many factors to consider when choosing a city to retire in. Knowing that there are a variety of recreational activities for retirees is the first step. Retirees these days don’t want to feel “old” –- in fact, they want to re-spark their passions for activities that they didn’t have time for when they were younger. A city may be vibrant for a younger crowd but have a dull or non-existent retiree community. Part of spotting a vibrant retiree community is finding out how many retirees live in the area. The more there are, the better chance a retiree has of finding activities that can allow them to meet peers interested in similar things.

Another thing to look for is quality healthcare in the area. As retirees get older, there are many risks for injuries and chronic health issues to become more severe, and it’s important to feel confident that those needs will be addressed in a professional manner.

2. How is a city affected both positively and negatively by the number of retirement age people?
For retirees, having a higher population of seniors in the area usually correlates with a more active senior community, simply because there are more people who want to be involved. A more active senior community means there are more events and resources that retirees can have access to for the rest of their lives. This is generally a positive for seniors and retirees as it prevents social isolation and gives them goals and rewards after work can no longer provide them. Some cities create multigenerational programs that allow younger people to interact with retirees, creating a stronger community bond and spreading knowledge from one generation to the next. One of the other interesting things that happen in cities with high retiree populations is that the male-to-female ratio begins to shift. Women tend to live longer than men, so the older the age of the city, the more the gender ratios shifts toward women. For female retirees looking to date (especially if they are older), this may create problems.

3. How has retirement lifestyle changed in the last 10, 20, 30 years?
As baby boomers retire, there is a distinct fear of considering themselves as “old.” They want to keep their independence and live like they always have, especially if they are still healthy. And as they retire later and live longer than any generation before them, retirees are saving more money to live long, enriched lives to pursue their passions after they stop working.

4. How do retirees affect the job market? Is the retirement age going up a good or bad thing?
When the average retirement age is 65, giant holes are left in the job market. The problem is that there aren’t enough trained and experienced employees to replace the retirees. So employers are faced with economic costs of hiring and training new employees. The higher the training costs, the more you’d want to retain current employment. There’s also profitability costs when less-skilled workers are trying to step into the shoes of a seasoned worker. Retirees may bring more jobs to the job market, but they’re jobs that the majority of workers are unqualified for.

Today, men are expected to live 17 years after the traditional retirement age and women are expected to live another 20. The retirement age going up as people are willing to work later into their lives is actually a good thing. A higher population of retired workers is a higher population of the country that’s not contributing to the economy and that’s dependent on others -- usually their children or the government -- for support.

 Rodney Harrell is the director of livability for AARP.

1. What factors should be considered when determining the best cities for retirees?
Although most people prefer to stay in their homes and communities as they age, there is a large group of people who plan to move in retirement. We see that most people who chose to move in retirement want to move in order to be closer to family. However, there are those who are looking for a different lifestyle in retirement; some chose to move from the suburbs to more urban spaces.

For those individuals looking to move to the city, there are many factors that come into play when it comes to deciding the best place for an individual to retire and a lot of those factors are based on personal needs and wants. AARP’s Livability Index tool allows individuals to search and compare locations based on a number of factors broadly organized into seven categories -- Housing, Neighborhood, Transportation, Environment, Health, Engagement and Opportunity.

2. How is a city affected both positively and negatively by the number of retirement age people?
This depends on the city. A city that has done a good job of planning to be age-friendly gets the positive aspects of older adults aging there by choice, whether they are older residents who are able to keep their friends, family and favorite places nearby, or whether they are new to the area and are moving there because of amenities that the city has. In those places, impacts are mostly positive -- a multigenerational community where people are able to access all of the community features.

In other places, they have been unable to develop the options for housing, transportation, shopping and other facilities that older adults want and need.  This can be because of a variety of local challenges.  In these places, older adults (and the communities) must make up for that shortfall. For example, a community where older adults are unable to safely use the public transportation system must find other ways to meet their needs. If they can't, the older adults who can't afford their own resources must do without. The cities that don't or can't plan ahead must do more to make up for that.

3. How has retirement lifestyle changed in the last 10, 20, 30 years?
Consumer tastes have been evolving. The 55-plus retirement community doesn't work for everyone, and as people stay in their homes and communities as they age, new technologies and advancements can help make things easier. Staying connected to one’s community is important to many people, and everything from designing sidewalks and benches in a town's downtown for people of all ages to designing homes and products with universal design to using social media to reach family, friends and neighbors have helped people of all ages be more connected.

Stay tuned as we poll experts in the field about what makes a city great for retirees. Have a tip? Drop us a line @VP_Careers.

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