As the 80+ million baby boomers age, more and more Americans will reach senior status. By 2040, more than one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. While the classic picture of retirement involves moving to the Sun Belt, many older adults actually want to stay put and age in their home and communities in cities both large and small.
This desire is part of what prompted the Milken Institute—a non-partisan economic think tank—to rank the best large and small cities for older adults to live in. The Institute looked at 83 indicators from publicly available data that fell into nine major categories: general livability, healthcare, wellness, financial security, education, transportation and convenience, employment, living arrangements, and community engagement. They sorted 381 metro areas according to these variables and ranked them for three major age brackets: adults age 65 and over, adults in the 65-79 age range and adults 80 and older.
Using the rankings, the Milken Institute then determined the top 10 large cities for seniors who want to age in place without moving. Read on to find out why seniors love living in these large cities.
Provo-Orem in Utah regained the top spot in the latest round of the rankings. This western state features a very healthy, active population and tons of opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature. Utah has five state parks of its own. There are low rates of diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s in the area, and the proximity of Brigham Young University provides lots of opportunities for learning and enrichment. Plus, the stable economy in the area means low unemployment overall and low poverty for older adults.
The capital of Wisconsin is a healthcare hub, with numerous providers across primary care, physical therapy and orthopedic surgery, all of which are relevant to aging adults. Many hospitals with geriatric, Alzheimer’s and rehab units are located in the area, and emergency room waits are often short if something unexpected does go wrong. There are lots of fitness centers and other recreational options, and many people walk to work. Not only is the capital the seat of state government, but it also hosts the University of Wisconsin, so the city’s population is very educated.
Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The recent explosion of population growth in the Research Triangle area caused this metro center to be added to the large cities list. The University of North Carolina and Duke University are both located in the area, and the metro offers numerous other civic and cultural institutions as well. Some of the nation’s best hospitals can be found near here, and seniors will have top-notch access to geriatric, Alzheimer’s, hospice and physical therapy services, as well as many primary care providers.
Salt Lake City, Utah
If the Provo-Orem area isn’t a perfect fit, there’s another metro area in Utah that’s also a great option for older adults: Salt Lake City. While no Silicon Valley, the area is a growing hub for finance and technology, and easy access to banks and financial services is readily available. There’s a high rate of older volunteers in the area giving back to the community, and many cultural and recreational amenities are offered to residents.
Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa
This Iowa city doesn’t just host one of the most notable presidential caucuses in the nation. It also offers an extremely affordable cost of living—including reasonably priced medical and long-term care services—not to mention it’s the U.S. leader in geriatric services with many rehab and Alzheimer’s facilities. It also features many libraries and recreational facilities, as well as funding for programs targeting older adults.
Austin-Round Rock, Texas
Austin is known for being a “weird” hangout for hip young people, but it’s also a vibrant community for older adults as well. The city offers a lot of entertainment and cultural options as well as a high-tech industry, a tax-friendly environment and thriving small businesses. Austin is also great at encouraging healthy behaviors, with low chronic disease rates, longer lives, and numerous recreational facilities.
Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska-Iowa
Warren Buffett’s hometown is a stable, inexpensive place to live. The cost of living is affordable and ample jobs are available. There are low levels of poverty among older people, income inequality and reverse mortgages. Residents will find many orthopedic surgeons, rehab centers, geriatric facilities and hospice services in the area, and care is affordable thanks to the magnet and medical school-affiliated hospitals in the area.
The capital of Mississippi is a very affordable place to live–it’s got a relatively low median home and rental prices, a low tax burden and low rates of reverse mortgages. Healthcare is also affordable, and there are many care options for seniors, including access to rehab and geriatric facilities and dialysis and diagnostic centers. If they wish, adults can also keep working here as they age since the metro has low unemployment among older adults.
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire
Boston is a science and healthcare hub for companies, and fortunately, this translates into top-notch care options for senior residents as well. There are abundant home healthcare options as well as high-quality nursing homes, and most hospitals in the area are affiliated with a medical school. The historic neighborhoods are extremely walkable for anyone with a good pair of therapeutic shoes, and the metro area has strong public transportation offerings, including special needs accommodations.
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
The economy in San Francisco is booming thanks to all the tech companies in the area, which means high-income levels and employment growth. The mild, warm weather of California suits many seniors, and many of the neighborhoods are walkable as well. The area boasts numerous five-star nursing homes, Joint Commission-accredited hospitals, enhanced independent living opportunities and many continuing-care facilities.
While many seniors can and do retire to the Sun Belt, that’s far from the only living option for older adults anymore. If you’re looking to stay put in your community as you reach your golden years, these 10 large cities are a great place to start.
By Kaki Zell
Kaki is the Vice President and co-owner of Ames Walker. After graduating from Virginia Tech she went on to work for Pepsi for several years before joining the family business. When she is not working she enjoys running, hiking, traveling, Virginia Tech football & spending time with family & friends.