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Highest-Ranking Retirement Destinations May Not Be Where You Think

Retirees can usually be found on sunny beaches or near Sun Belt metros that garner warmer climates year-round, but a new study from StorageCafe revealed states outside of the Sunshine State are becoming increasingly popular among seniors and retirees.

However, with seniors’ current concerns about healthcare and other expenses, there are other factors to consider when assessing a location’s potential for offering the best retirement experience.

Key takeaways:

  • Half of the US’s best retirement destinations are in the Northeast, with New York’s NYC and Albany plus Connecticut’s Bridgeport among the highest-ranking places
  • Florida boasts two of the top three metropolitan areas for retirees — in Cape Coral-Fort Myers and North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton they have safe environments and long life expectancies
  • Ohio’s Cleveland-Elyria is the US’s second-placed large metro for retirees, offering good value for money and leisure options
  • The Wisconsin metros of Milwaukee-Waukesha and Madison have a generous provision of health care employees for retirees

With more than 10,000 people who turn 65 every day,  StorageCafe found where the best retirement destinations are right now by considering a broad range of factors relevant to seniors’ needs across the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. To determine how good a fit any location would be for a retirement-age person, and the chances of their easily integrating into the local community, StorageCafe looked at what proportion of its residents are aged over 65 and at life expectancy there.

Average incomes as well as several health factors and local crime statistics were analyzed in order to determine safety levels. As retirees receive fixed incomes and monthly budgets can make or break the living experience, costs for housing and groceries plus the local tax burden were factored in as well. StorageCafe also looked at local leisure options in the form of parks and golf courses. Finally, we analyzed how good metros are at providing age-restricted accommodation in 50+ unit communities — an indication of a city’s preparedness for senior living — and also self storage, which can greatly assist with both moving into a new home and keeping it clutter-free as seniors mostly downsize for retirement.

While it's no surprise that seniors enjoy Florida’s beachside hotspots, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers and North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton both medaling, places to the north and east fill most of the top 20 positions: the metros centered on New York, Albany, Bridgeport and Providence — not to mention several in Ohio and Wisconsin — all offer retirees a great array of advantages. The West of the country is represented by California’s Oxnard and Texas’s most retiree-friendly metropolitan area is El Paso.

Florida retirees enjoy low taxes and great conditions — Cape Coral & Sarasota top the list

Every list of places for retirees should feature The Sunshine State. The Cape Coral-Fort Myers and North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton metropolitan areas, both towards the south of Florida on the Gulf Coast, prove to be particularly attractive for them, scoring first and third places in the ranking. Both are clearly set up superbly for older residents, as they make up more of the populations there than in any other large metros — 53.0% and 62.7%, respectively, compared to the numbers of younger adults — and they receive high average incomes in excess of $35K.

In addition, Cape Coral-Fort Myers has the best safety score out of the 100 metros in our ranking and residents have a very high average life expectancy at 82.4 years — the figure in the Sarasota metro is not far behind at 81.4. Seniors in Florida also benefit from a pleasant tax climate, with their incomes, benefits and inheritances untaxed, although there is both a sales tax and a property tax.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater scores 8th place with a lower cost of living than the higher-ranking locations just up the coast. Of course, there are beaches and golf clubs aplenty and some of the very best weather in this part of the nation. Not to be outdone, Florida’s Atlantic seaboard brings Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach to the party, in 17th and 18th positions and with a similar range of virtues for retirees.

The Top 20 Retirement Hotspots in the US

Ohio offers healthcare and cost-effective housing with Cleveland leading the way

The Buckeye State often scores well in calculations about value for money, and seniors are certainly not shortchanged here as two Ohio metropolitan areas make the top five for seniors. The nation’s second-place metro for retirees is Cleveland-Elyria, which has good levels of safety, cost of living and provision of healthcare workers and social assistance. It’s no wonder the ratio of people over 65 years old to other adults is more than 30% here.

Dayton-Kettering, in fifth place overall, brings to the table much of what Cleveland offers but has even better costs of living. House prices here approach $192K, while in Cleveland they are $220K, and the median rent is also slightly less at $861 — these figures make the Birthplace of Aviation one the best value destinations for retirees in the country.

Both these Ohio metros have above-average provision of age-restricted accommodation, but Akron, in 27th position overall and just south of Cleveland and its Lake Erie recreational opportunities, proportionally provides the most. Over the state’s eastern border in Pennsylvania, Harrisburg-Carlisle wins a 16th place spot, also having more age-restricted accommodation than most metros plus a good safety score.

New York State has great all-round deals for seniors — try Albany, Rochester or even NYC itself

New York City scores a fourth-place ranking for retirees, with a high provision of healthcare workers, a good number of parks and golf courses, plus an average income of over $32K. The Big Apple may not be renowned for stretching your dollar, but more affordable places further out in the NYC metro area keep housing costs there manageable, and no state tax is levied on social security income.

Going upstate, Albany-Schenectady-Troy gets sixth place in the ranking of the best US metros for retirees, scoring well for safety. And while retirement incomes are almost at the same high level as in the New York City metro, house prices are around half the amount, the median home value being about $280K, and monthly rents average less than $1,100.

Further out toward Lake Ontario, Rochester and Syracuse score 14th and 19th places in the ranking, respectively. They score well for safety and housing costs tend to be reasonable. In addition to great boating and fishing options, other recreational options in Upstate New York include the famous early fall experience when the leaves in the forests change color.

Wisconsin offers good cost of living and healthcare in Milwaukee and Madison

Some retirees from the Midwest are going to want to stay there, and others may be drawn to America’s heartland by its quieter, often friendlier way of life. Wisconsin’s Milwaukee-Waukesha scores a very creditable seventh place overall on account of its high provision of healthcare workers and social assistance plus reasonable housing prices and cost of living.

The metropolitan area centered on Madison, Wisconsin’s capital, is not far behind, getting twelfth place in the ranking of senior-friendly metros. Retirees here receive an average income of over $31K, which is $4K more than they would in Greater Milwaukee, and have a similar life expectancy of round 80 years, though the costs are a little higher.

The Chicago-Naperville-Elgin and Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan areas both shade into Wisconsin, offering big-city leisure options, though the costs of living tend to be higher. Meanwhile, retirees who are fans of the great outdoors might like to know that the Badger State still retains its great traditions of fishing, on Lake Michigan and more than 5,000 other lakes.

Connecticut retirees have safe communities and good healthcare provision in Bridgeport & Hartford

Connecticut’s coastal Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metropolitan area scores 10th place in the list of great places for retirees. They have a long average life expectancy of 82.1 years and appreciate the high level of safety in the metro. In addition, they receive a generous average income of more than $36K, which offsets the somewhat higher-than-average cost of living here.

In the center of Connecticut, Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown gets 20th position in the ranking of the best metropolitan areas for retirees. It offers an even higher provision of healthcare workers and social assistance than Bridgeport’s. Average life expectancy is also high here at 80.5 years, and there is a generous allocation of age-restricted accommodation.

Retirees also might like to take a look at New Haven-Milford — the “Cultural Capital of Connecticut” — which scores 24th place overall with similar advantages to the other Constitution State metros. In neighboring Rhode Island, the Providence-Warwick metro lands an even better 13th place, with a higher provision of both age-restricted accommodation and golf courses per square mile than any other large US metro.

Californian and Texan retirees enjoy long lives — Oxnard and El Paso are out in front

The Golden State always attracts seniors, with great beaches and weather plus a highly developed attitude toward healthcare. The Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura metropolitan area — on the coast just 60 miles west of Los Angeles — scores ninth place on the list. Retirees here receive a high average annual income of over $35K — which rather parallels the metro’s housing costs — and they can look forward to an average life expectancy of no less than 82.3 years.

Texas is another warm place to settle down in after retirement, and its highest ranking metro for seniors is El Paso. They would also enjoy an average life expectancy here in excess of 80 years, but the costs are at the lighter end of the spectrum. In addition, there is also a significantly higher allocation of healthcare workers and social assistance than Californian metros tend to have.

To read the full report, including more data, charts and methodology, click here.


About Author: Demetria Lester

Demetria C. Lester is a reporter for DS News and MReport magazines with more than eight years' writing experience. She has served as content coordinator and copy editor for the Los Angeles Daily News, the Orange County Register, in addition to 11 other Southern California publications. A former editor-in-chief at Northlake College and staff writer at her alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, she has covered events such as the Byron Nelson and Pac-12 Conferences, progressing into her freelance work with the Dallas Wings and D Magazine. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Lester is a jazz aesthete and loves to read. She can be reached at [email protected]

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