Top Cities, Towns, and Countries for Retirement Living

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Seniors balance competing factors when they decide where to live after retirement. People who feel rooted in a community and have easy access to family and friends might stay where they are. Some may decide to move closer to adult children who have moved away. Older people who are tired of coping with snow and cold weather often choose to move to a warmer climate. Retirees who must live on a reduced budget could opt to move to a community where the cost of living is low.

Housing choices for older people who can live independently include downsized homes, condos, and apartments. Retirement communities are available in many cities. Most metropolitan areas offer a choice of assisted-living facilities for seniors who need help with their activities of daily living.

The “best” place to retire is largely a matter of taste and preference. Some people appreciate the sense of community and quiet living that small towns provide. Others enjoy the cultural advantages of living in a city. Here are some cities and towns that seniors might consider if they are thinking about relocating after retirement.

Retiring in the United States

A U.S. News analysis of metropolitan areas evaluated housing affordability, access to health care, taxes, the job market, and quality of life as reported by residents. Five of the top ten communities are in Pennsylvania: Lancaster (1st), Harrisburg (2nd), York (5th), Allentown (9th), and Reading (10th).

Four of the top ten are in Florida: Pensacola (3rd), Tampa (4th), Naples (6th), and Daytona Beach (7th). The eighth spot fell to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Travel + Leisure echoed U.S. News’ enthusiasm for Ann Arbor as a retirement destination for people who don’t mind cold weather.

The personal finance website WalletHub also placed four Florida cities in the top ten while noting that they are not always the most affordable choices. Charleston is the site’s top choice. Cincinnati, Scottsdale, and Wilmington also made the list.

Travel + Leisure considered cost of living, crime data, health care availability, senior housing, activities, and transportation in compiling a list of small towns that are attractive retirement options. Its unranked choices include:

  • Greer, South Carolina
  • Dillsboro, North Carolina
  • Coolidge, Arizona
  • Paso Robles, California
  • Fredericksburg, Texas
  • Bristol, Vermont

Stretching the definition of “small town” to include cites of 50,000 to 100,000, U.S. News spotlights three cities in Texas, three in Arizona, two in Florida, and one each in Tennessee and Idaho.

Retiring Abroad

Moving south of the border or across either ocean may appeal to retirees who were too busy working to explore the world. The cost of living in some countries may allow Americans to stretch their retirement income while experiencing the excitement and cultural enrichment of unfamiliar surroundings.

Living abroad isn’t for everyone. Language barriers can be a problem for retirees who do not speak the local language, although English is widely spoken in much of the world. Visa expenses and the cost of securing permission for a long-term stay must be factored into the retiree’s analysis of retirement costs.

A greater barrier might be the unavailability of Medicare coverage in foreign countries. Medical care may be relatively inexpensive in some countries, but the quality of care varies widely.

It is generally wise to live in a country for a few months before deciding to make a permanent move. Retirees may discover that they miss stores and brands that they take for granted, although retirees who want to find a familiar environment are usually assured of finding a Starbucks.

Popular retirement destinations in foreign countries include Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Portugal, Spain, and Malta. Most of those countries, as well as Vietnam and Montenegro, also make Travel + Leisure’s list of the cheapest countries for retirement.

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