Best Cities to Retire

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

CityHousing and TaxesHealthcare and SafetyTravel and Leisure

1

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL73553

2

Fort Collins, CO38787

3

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA542212

4

Prescott, AZ46394

5

Jacksonville, FL391338

6

Boise City, ID56333

7

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL224722

8

Santa Rosa, CA71429

9

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO812118

10

Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL273449

11

Bremerton-Silverdale, WA3630129

12

Boulder, CO84868

13

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL305748

14

Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA455560

15

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL57885

16

Charleston-North Charleston, SC453236

16

Olympia-Tumwater, WA5223156

18

Reno, NV89276

19

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL996160

20

Columbia, SC372862

20

Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA76386

22

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA96201

23

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA87585

24

Ogden-Clearfield, UT5817133

25

Colorado Springs, CO539852

26

Kennewick-Richland, WA782111

27

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA1041518

28

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ2913220

29

Vallejo-Fairfield, CA79397

30

Gainesville, FL554354

31

Charlottesville, VA6741158

32

Provo-Orem, UT9511109

33

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR327678

34

Chico, CA477925

34

Jackson, MS409152

36

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC3049161

37

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL13130166

38

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA122448

39

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL11142151

40

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL616369

41

Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV288898

42

Anchorage, AK1063182

43

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL1099178

43

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA1015163

45

Ocala, FL6164107

46

Tucson, AZ118557

47

Port St. Lucie, FL15127195

48

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA114443

49

Salt Lake City, UT1172570

50

Portland-South Portland, ME144199

51

Columbus, GA-AL6329126

52

Albuquerque, NM1415143

52

Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC219292

54

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA126352

55

Richmond, VA1125558

56

Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH2577145

57

Urban Honolulu, HI4816313

58

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV1512732

59

Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL2017366

60

Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC578877

61

Greeley, CO8411088

62

Duluth, MN-WI1374169

63

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA975347

64

Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV1918934

65

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA1422610

66

St. Louis, MO-IL1078131

67

Asheville, NC35160128

67

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA1841021

69

Birmingham-Hoover, AL18154104

70

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI1931240

71

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH1791725

72

Huntsville, AL3193117

72

Tallahassee, FL5117446

74

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA137864

75

Roanoke, VA72119131

76

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC8813437

77

Tuscaloosa, AL44105123

78

Pittsburgh, PA13252100

78

Springfield, MO6511785

80

Bakersfield, CA1088414

81

Montgomery, AL12169133

82

Austin-Round Rock, TX1407027

83

Sioux Falls, SD10948127

84

Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN919081

84

Shreveport-Bossier City, LA1518175

86

Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA21125200

86

Madison, WI1856102

88

Raleigh, NC1319330

89

Lynchburg, VA6617595

90

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO69112132

91

Knoxville, TN17162148

91

New Orleans-Metairie, LA4915150

93

Lafayette, LA4116555

94

Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS23137159

95

Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC42139113

96

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX1009745

97

Salinas, CA12811311

98

Norwich-New London, CT1626574

99

Fort Wayne, IN9483166

99

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT1743396

101

Visalia-Porterville, CA1257356

102

Evansville, IN-KY7599193

103

Baton Rouge, LA5015864

103

Eugene, OR111103115

105

Fresno, CA1279517

106

Ann Arbor, MI1685190

107

Charleston, WV25157174

108

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA13659150

109

Wilmington, NC6219489

110

Fort Smith, AR-OK43126171

111

Spartanburg, SC34135180

112

Kansas City, MO-KS1608039

113

Barnstable Town, MA103166113

114

Clarksville, TN-KY70127121

115

Salem, OR14611841

116

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL10299184

116

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC12365177

118

Providence-Warwick, RI-MA1397579

119

Chattanooga, TN-GA33180170

120

South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI77136188

121

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY16340165

122

Yakima, WA105105130

123

Lexington-Fayette, KY92121109

124

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI17035189

125

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT1789167

126

Cedar Rapids, IA15962156

127

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX1497159

127

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX7417961

129

Columbus, OH18024105

130

Salisbury, MD-DE97139182

131

Greensboro-High Point, NC68150163

132

Topeka, KS129107112

133

Green Bay, WI19117172

134

Manchester-Nashua, NH19716186

135

Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA15849138

136

New Haven-Milford, CT1867272

137

Mobile, AL24191164

138

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI1995465

139

Savannah, GA90127119

140

Corpus Christi, TX6419973

141

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA19060116

142

Oklahoma City, OK82148139

143

Brownsville-Harlingen, TX8616944

144

Macon, GA59160153

145

Appleton, WI20014173

146

Springfield, MA17661140

147

Killeen-Temple, TX11413984

148

Merced, CA11915516

149

Lubbock, TX11811593

150

Stockton-Lodi, CA13514915

151

Cleveland-Elyria, OH15746155

151

Lansing-East Lansing, MI145103187

151

Memphis, TN-MS-AR8917851

151

Winston-Salem, NC60187191

155

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC12915935

156

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD1669971

157

Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN73177118

158

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA1987491

158

Rochester, NY17767149

160

Modesto, CA15411123

161

Lincoln, NE19668143

162

Erie, PA143107135

163

Syracuse, NY17185136

164

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ18186142

165

Worcester, MA-CT19268101

166

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX15313028

166

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN121138146

166

Kalamazoo-Portage, MI15681199

169

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA124124196

170

York-Hanover, PA181121108

171

El Paso, TX9718697

172

Wichita, KS15214582

173

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD17213242

174

Amarillo, TX93181144

175

Fayetteville, NC11016989

176

Tulsa, OK80195154

177

Burlington-South Burlington, VT195113147

178

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA18911623

179

Flint, MI116169185

180

Binghamton, NY155144192

180

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI147142122

182

Peoria, IL150151168

183

College Station-Bryan, TX141121124

184

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN175109106

185

Dayton, OH112176179

186

Lancaster, PA167146197

187

Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX83196198

188

Reading, PA18316779

189

Laredo, TX13419729

190

Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ18894103

190

Utica-Rome, NY161120194

192

Canton-Massillon, OH133190176

193

Trenton, NJ164181120

194

Champaign-Urbana, IL165147175

195

Waco, TX119198141

196

Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY173168137

197

Akron, OH147188183

198

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI194156125

199

Toledo, OH169184162

200

Rockford, IL187200181

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.

Average Retirement Income

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.

Instances of Burglary

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.

Services for the Elderly, Disabled

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.

Health of Elderly

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 olderU.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 olderU.S. Census Bureau (2014)
9. Number of assisted living facilities per 1,000 residents 65 years old and olderU.S. Census Bureau (2014)
10. Number of health practitioners per 1,000 residents 65 years old and olderU.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 populationFBI (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 olderU.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 olderU.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-beingGallup (2015)

Experts' Take

Pamela Atwood headshot
← 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 headshot
← 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 headshot
← 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 headshot
← 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.

Comments and Questions