Best (And Worst) Cities For Retirement In The U.S.

According to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2030, all individuals belonging to the baby boomer generation—estimated to be roughly 73 million in the United States—will have reached the age of 65. As retirement comes into sharper focus for many in this group, thoughts are increasingly turning to the most suitable locations for enjoying their twilight years.

With that in mind a new study from Consumer Affairs looked into the best (and worst) cities for retirement in the United States. The study looked at the following from each location:

  • Cost of living index

  • Percentage of people 65 and over

  • Total crime (violent and property crimes) per 100,000 people

  • Rent burden (percentage of households spending 30% or more of household income on rent)

  • Preventive services (percentage of people 65 and older up to date on core set of clinical preventive services)

  • Access to healthy foods (percentage of people living more than half a mile from the nearest grocery store

  • Access to parks (percentage of population living within a 10-minute walk of a green space)

  • Physical inactivity score (percentage of population with no leisure-time physical activity in the past month)

  • Walkability (Walk Score)

  • Community well-being score (Sharecare index)

  • Temperature (Whether average temperature from February 2022 to January 2023 was between 65 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit)

Jennifer Tripken, associate director for the Center of Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging, stated: ”Where you live plays a critical role in not only how long you live, but in your quality of life. Communities that are age-friendly are ones that promote health and are designed to meet the needs of diverse populations, including having inclusive and equitable policies, practices and services.”

Lincoln, the seat of government in Nebraska, not only serves as the state’s capital but also ranked highest on the list for ideal retirement cities. Despite being the state’s second-largest city by population, it’s the higher proportion of residents over 65 that could make it especially attractive to retirees. Another key factor in its favor is the cost of living index, which suggests that your money will go further here when it comes to everyday expenses.

Additional merits of Lincoln encompass its relatively low crime rate and more affordable rental prices. Though its average temperature for the year 2022 stood at around 53 degrees Fahrenheit—somewhat cooler than other cities in the survey—its rich offering of parks and high community well-being index propelled it to the top of the list.

While Lincoln stands out, it’s not the lone contender for retirement according to the metrics. Omaha also made the cut, securing the 25th position in the study.

The report’s runner-up in is St. Louis, largely due to its affordable cost of living and high marks in overall well-being. As Missouri’s most populated city, it boasts a sizable community of residents aged 65 and above. 

The city also shines in its accessibility to healthier food options and its walkability. Additionally, a high proportion of its senior citizens have benefited from clinical preventive services. While St. Louis does record higher crime and physical inactivity rates compared to other top contenders, it compensates with an abundant offering of parks that are easily accessible.

It’s worth noting, however, that St. Louis is somewhat of an anomaly in Missouri when it comes to retirement-friendly cities. Other cities in the state such as Joplin, ranked 91st, Springfield, coming in at 99th, and Kansas City, landing at 100th, all scored significantly lower on the list.

Situated in Illinois and hosting the University of Illinois, Champaign is not merely a hub for students but also ranks as a prime location for retirees. The city provides a variety of attractions, ranging from sports events to a vibrant arts community, catering to diverse tastes among the retired populace.

Champaign earns commendation for its low levels of crime and high rate of seniors who have availed themselves of preventive healthcare services. The city also scores well in terms of walkability.

In the context of Illinois, Champaign is not alone in its appeal for the older generation. Bloomington also receives positive reviews, securing the 16th position on the retirement-friendly list, followed closely by Decatur at 26th place.

Among the worst cities for retirement were Lake Havasu City, Arizona, which despite boasting the highest population of individuals aged 65 and over along with a low crime rate, finds itself at the very bottom. Primary reasons include poor access to nutritious food options, a less-than-stellar community well-being index, and a steep cost of living. Following closely are Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Olympia, Washington, both of which scored poorly in terms of park accessibility and walkable neighborhoods. If these factors hold importance for your retirement planning, you might want to explore other options, the report notes.

You can view the full list of best and worst cities to retire in, as well as a list of demographics on each city, at the full study here.


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