The Top 10 Cities Where Seniors Can Live the Good Life

Introduction

According to the US Census Bureau projections, there are currently 73 million Americans in the baby boomers’ generation. Pursuing mental and physical fitness, these seniors are redefining "senior living" and they don’t necessarily subscribe to the set notion of retirement.

This report benchmarks US cities that offer older adults active, healthy, and socially connected lifestyles, and the findings contain some surprises. 

  • It’s not just the cities with a warm climate that find a place in the list of cities to retire.
  • The seniors seek much more - staying healthy, engaged, productive, connected, and socially relevant as long as they live. 
  • Chicago is the best city with access to an active lifestyle, strong police presence for safety, and excellent flight connectivity.
  • The west coast has the highest number of cities, among which three are ranked in the top ten.
  • There’s a good mix of cities that work for seniors across all regions of the US.
  • California is the only state with two cities, LA and San Francisco, making the top ten list of seniors’ preferred cities.

AARP recently reported that many people are choosing to retire where they built their lives. They aren’t packing up to retire somewhere else. So, a person who moves into senior-hood in a city would rather spend the rest of their days in the same urban environment that they are used to. The suburbs that these baby boomers had moved to many years back to live a balanced family and professional life are now bustling cityscapes, and they love it that way. With eighty percent of the seniors already residing in the metropolitan areas, the growing trend of urban living is set to push the numbers up.

Here’s what we think makes a city tick for seniors

We looked at data for the crowded and busy US cities to see which of them appeal more to older adults and what they offer. Our study to rank “The Top 10 Cities Where Seniors Can Live the Good Life” is based on available public data and uses essential and relevant parameters like health, wellness, convenience, safety and more to show the cities that best serve the seniors’ interests.

Our parameters focus on the well-being and livability standard of the 20 most populated (and, as data shows, the ones with high senior population) cities in the United States. Here is a snapshot of the parameters that were explored for this study (our complete methodology is explained below).

 

 

The Top 10 Cities Where Seniors Can Live the Good Life



  1.     Chicago

Famous for the Chicago-style hot dogs, pizza, and music, Chicago is also one of the most populated cities. It has earned top spots in three different categories. With its excellent fitness infrastructures such as parks, sidewalks, walkways, etc., the city has made a place for itself as a senior-friendly city that encourages an active lifestyle. Apart from that, it has ranked second, after the capital city, for visible police presence, which spells safety.

And, that’s not all. The Windy City ranks first in the flight connectivity category. It has about a million flight connections, making it travel-friendly, keeping senior citizens connected, and preventing isolation.

City Score - 105

  1.   Atlanta

With a dense urban tree coverage and a unique topography featuring rolling mountains, Atlanta, Georgia’s capital, has proved its usefulness and friendliness when it comes to senior citizens. Ranked third in the availability of options to maintain a healthy diet, Atlanta not only makes a place for itself in cities that promote a healthy lifestyle, but it also fares well across most other parameters.

City Score - 96 

  1.     Los Angeles

 

Los Angeles (LA), the beautiful, bustling, scenic, and spectacular Californian city, has bagged a spot amongst the top ten in almost every category. The city boasts a fitness focus, ranking second in exercise access and fifth among the least obese metros. LA has also cut its way through the competition and ranked third in terms of flight connectivity. This Tinseltown seems to be a place that is as good for the young dreamers, movers and shakers as it is for those who’d like to enjoy their seniorhood.

City Score - 68

  1. Denver

 

The Mile-High City, named one of the top two destinations to live in the US, has lived up to its reputation for senior citizens. With its well-planned infrastructure, safe walks, public transport access, and more, the city has helped keep its seniors active and healthy. Ranking fifth in average income levels, Colorado’s capital looks like a good place for seniors who value an economically secure life and overall well-being. 

City Score - 66

  1. Houston

 

Famous for NASA, Houston Texans, museums, winding waterways, and a vibrant atmosphere, Houston is a commercially important city in the southern state of Texas. The city’s large number of married people (second highest among the twenty most populated US cities) point to happier, more active, and longer living seniors (according to a  Medicare study). Though the Bayou City did not rank as high as others in the health parameters, it still averaged well enough to stand among the top twenty.

City Score - 61

  1. San Francisco


 

This bustling business center brews career opportunities for youth across the globe and is popular and vibrant. The Golden City is one of the largest cities across the US west coast, and in addition to being an excellent place for youth to live, it has proved no less in serving senior citizens well.

In an age where pollution levels have risen, and air quality levels have declined rapidly, San Francisco has earned the third spot among the metros with cleaner air quality despite its crowded commercial bustle. The city ranked second in providing access to a healthy diet, adding to its health quotient.

City Score - 60

  1.     New York


Often referred to as the largest city globally, New York is also one of the world's business capitals. The city is famous for its skyscrapers, the bustle of Manhattan and Times Square, the entertainment of Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, parks, excellent infrastructure, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and many more things. The Big Apple proves to be an incredible place for senior citizens to live a happy, full, and active life, ranking amongst the top ten in many parameters. It offers a base for seniors to live a healthy and fit life with good access to exercise (1st rank), very few people under 65 without health insurance (8th rank), and a lower obesity score (2nd rank).

City score - 54

  1. Phoenix

 

The capital of the south-central state of Arizona, Phoenix, with its warm and dry climate, holds significant promise for senior citizens. It has the third-largest number of married people among the 20 most populated metros in the US. This 6th most populous city in the US is safer than many others, scoring considerably well in terms of the crime rate (ranked 8th). With an airport that has been named as the friendliest airport in the US, Phoenix has about 408,499 flight connections and is ranked ninth in this parameter. It provides citizens with the opportunity to stay connected and access the rest of the world.

City Score - 50

  1.   Seattle


 

Situated at the far western corner of the United States, Seattle has various artificial and natural attractions, such as the Space Needle, Mount Si, and many others. Scoring well in the health quotient (healthy diet access – 1; AQI – 5; health Insurance coverage – 3), the Emerald City has made its way to the top ten in our list of great cities for seniors. Besides, it has earned the second spot in the average income level and seventh in the marital status (% Married) list, setting a healthy and happy atmosphere geared towards its citizens overall well-being.

City score- 49

  1. Minneapolis


 

One-half of the Twin cities (St. Paul being the other half), Minneapolis, with its cultural attractions, museums, important institutions, and shopping avenues, is a good city to spend a lifetime. Ranking sixth for good air quality and ninth for access to healthy diet options, this city has proved itself to be a great place for senior citizens. 

With the tenth highest average income levels among the twenty cities in our study and the fifth spot for health insurance coverage, Minneapolis promises its citizens well-being and a good quality of life. Ranked tenth overall, just after Seattle, it missed the ninth spot by fractions.

City Score – 49

Methodology

This study is not just about the best places to retire. It evaluates U.S. metropolitan areas on how well they cater to the changing needs and expectations of the growing and longer-living adult population in the country. 

We have ranked the top ten metropolitan areas out of the 20 most populated metros in the U.S., using a simple weighted methodology and recent data in three broad primary parameters, based on ten secondary parameters:

  • Health - Air Quality; Obesity rate; Access to exercise; Health insurance rate; Healthy diet
  • Well-being and convenience - Income level; Marital Status; Flight connectivity
  • Safety - Crime rate; Access to law enforcement
  1. We listed the top 20 US metros by population.

Top 20 Metros in U.S. (by population)

State

Population

New York

NY

8336817

Los Angeles

CA

3979576

Chicago

IL

2693976

Houston

TX

2320268

Phoenix

AZ

1680992

Philadelphia

PA

1584064

San Diego

CA

1423851

Dallas

TX

1343573

San Francisco

CA

881549

Seattle

WA

753675

Denver

CO

727211

Washington

DC

705749

Boston

MA

692600

Detroit

MI

670031

Atlanta

GA

506811

Miami

FL

467963

Minneapolis

MN

429606

Tampa

FL

399700

Riverside

CA

331360

St. Louis

MO

300576


  1. The data for the following secondary parameters has been populated based on the sources mentioned in the references. Each parameter was assigned a relevant weight.

S.no

Primary Parameters

Secondary parameters

Weight Percent

 

Health

 

 

1

 

Air Quality

5

2

 

Obesity rate

10

3

 

Access to Exercise

15

4

 

Health insurance rate

10

5

 

Healthy diet

10

 

Well-being or convenience

 

 

6

 

Income level (compared with the National Average)

15

7

 

Marital Status Rate

5

8

 

Flight Connectivity (Commercial ops + Air taxis)

10

 

Safety

 

 

9

 

Crime Rate

10

10

 

Law Enforcement Officers per 1,000 residents

10


  1. The city scores were calculated based on the weight assigned to each secondary parameter. The parameters that would affect the score negatively were assigned a negative score – Air quality index, obesity rate, and crime rate.

3 .The total score helped us rank the metros.

The Parameters

Health 

  1. Obesity rate – Well-planned and maintained cities make it easy for people to walk safely, access public transport, and stay mobile and active. They provide spaces for various activities and socializing and are more likely to help citizens maintain a balanced life and a healthy weight. Tampa, FL, led the list in this category, followed closely by New York and San Francisco.

U.S. Metros

State

Obesity Rate

Rank

 

Tampa

FL

13.6

1

 

New York

NY

15.4

2

 

San Francisco

CA

16.1

3

 

Denver

CO

16.3

4

 

Los Angeles

CA

20.4

5

 

Miami

FL

20.5

6

 

Seattle

WA

20.5

7

 

Boston

MA

21.4

8

 

Washington

DC

22

9

 

San Diego

CA

22.2

10

 


  1. Access to Exercise – New York, LA, and Chicago took the top three spots among the most fitness-oriented cities. Apart from staving off obesity, regular physical activity lowers the risk or effects of health issues like diabetes, cancer, stroke, hypertension, cardiovascular distress, and more. Cities that provide better exercise opportunities – gyms, walking streets, parks, sidewalks – are a healthy bet.


U.S. Metros

State

Access to Exercise

Rank

New York

NY

100

1

Los Angeles

CA

98

2

Chicago

IL

99

3

Dallas

TX

96

4

Houston

TX

56

5

Washington

DC

100

6

Miami

FL

98

7

Philadelphia

PA

100

8

Atlanta

GA

94

9

Phoenix

AZ

92

10


  1. Health insurance rate – Miami has most of its people covered under health insurance (96.1%), which indicates the city’s focus on providing access to healthcare. Washington D.C. (95.9%) and Seattle (95.4%) aren’t far behind. Though insurance coverage may not help cover all the care-associated costs, it definitely is a good starting point to encourage timely and affordable use of healthcare services.

  

U.S. Metros

State

Health Insurance Coverage Rate

(Persons without health insurance

under age 65 years -%)

Rank

Miami

FL

3.9

1

Washington

DC

4.1

2

Seattle

WA

4.6

3

San Francisco

CA

5.7

4

Minneapolis

MN

7.2

5

Phoenix

AZ

7.8

6

Boston

MA

8.2

7

New York

NY

8.6

8

Atlanta

GA

8.7

9

San Diego

CA

8.8

10


  1. Air Quality – Miami, FL, topped with the best air quality but ranked 15th in the city ranking. Linked with cardiac issues, respiratory or pulmonary distress, asthma, diabetes, and more, air quality and a city’s efforts to maintain it at a safe level do affect a city’s livability or health quotient. Boston and San Francisco were 2nd and 3rd.

U.S. Metros

State

AQI (Air Quality)

Rank

Miami

FL

41

1

Boston

MA

43

2

San Francisco

CA

43

3

Tampa

FL

43

4

Seattle

WA

45

5

Minneapolis

MN

46

6

Washington

DC

47

7

New York

NY

51

8

Dallas

TX

51

9

Philadelphia

PA

51

10


  1. Healthy diet – Healthy food plays a significant role in the health outcomes of a city’s populace. Factors like the presence and proximity of healthy food sources such as farmers' markets, supermarkets, fresh food stands, and more decide a city's health-access ranking.  Available data ranks Seattle, San Francisco, and Atlanta as the top three cities with the most beneficial food to choose

U.S. Metros

State

Healthy Diet Access

Rank

Seattle

WA

54.1

1

San Francisco

CA

53.6

2

Atlanta

GA

51.6

3

Washington

DC

50.9

4

San Diego

CA

50.7

5

St. Louis

MO

50.5

6

Miami

FL

50.4

7

Tampa

FL

50.2

8

Minneapolis

MN

50.1

9

Boston

MA

50

10


Well-being & Convenience

  1. Income level (compared with the National Average) – Studies have shown that income levels have a bearing on the living conditions and well-being of the elderly, affecting their functional capability, physical activity, and psychological well-being. This would indicate that cities with healthier income levels overall fare better in terms of seniors' physical, mental, and financial security. A big reason for San Francisco, Seattle, and San Diego standing first, second, and third in this parameter could be that these cities provide seniors with good work opportunities. 

U.S. Metros

State

Average Income Level

Rank

San Francisco

CA

123659

1

Seattle

WA

102486

2

San Diego

CA

85507

3

Boston

MA

79018

4

Denver

CO

75646

5

Riverside

CA

71967

6

New York

NY

69407

7

Los Angeles

CA

67418

8

Atlanta

GA

66657

9

Minneapolis

MN

65889

10


7.Marital Status Rate – A Medicare study highlighted the protective effect of marital status and showed that married people lived longer and stayed more active than the unmarried ones. Our study places San Diego, Houston, TX, and Phoenix, AZ, as the top three in this parameter.


U.S. Metros

State

Marital Status

(% married)

Rank

San Diego

CA

47

1

Houston

TX

44

2

Phoenix

AZ

44

3

New York

NY

43

4

Dallas

TX

42

5

Miami

FL

42

6

Seattle

WA

42

7

Riverside

CA

42

8

Los Angeles

CA

41

9

Tampa

FL

41

10



8.Flight Connectivity (Commercial ops + Air taxis) – Chicago tops the list of well-connected metros with close to a million total flight connections. Atlanta comes in second, followed by LA. Abundant flight links boost a city’s economic health (GDP, investments, etc.), convenience quotient, and business environment. Good connectivity contributes to senior well-being by encouraging easy active travel, helping maintain social connects, and reducing isolation.


U.S. Metros

State

Flight Connectivity (Commercial ops +

Air taxis)

Rank

Chicago

IL

956459

1

Atlanta

GA

860332

2

Los Angeles

CA

579134

3

Denver

CO

543077

4

Houston

TX

533909

5

New York

NY

434519

6

San Francisco

CA

416342

7

Phoenix

AZ

408499

8

Philadelphia

PA

404857

9

Miami

FL

391489

10


Safety

9.Crime Rate – The fear of being the victims of crime among older adults may impact their lives, make them feel vulnerable, less likely to venture out (more so after dark), or stay active. With its lowest crime rate, Tampa, FL stands out as the safest city, and San Diego, CA, and New York follow on its heels. These cities have managed to control their crime rates, leaving their seniors feeling safer.


U.S. Metros

State

Crime Rate

Rank

Tampa

FL

198.1

1

San Diego

CA

208.3

2

New York

NY

221.4

3

Boston

MA

257.8

4

Riverside

CA

296.8

5

Los Angeles

CA

337.2

6

Miami

FL

341.1

7

Phoenix

AZ

379.3

8

Seattle

WA

396.6

9

Chicago

IL

433.2

10


10.Law Enforcement Officers per 1000 residents - A visible, available, and accessible police presence in a city generates a practical sense of safety among seniors who might otherwise feel vulnerable. With more law enforcement personnel on the beat, Washington DC (1st), Chicago (2nd), and New York (3rd) trump other cities in this parameter.


U.S. Metros

State

Law Enforcement Officers per 1,000 residents

Rank

Washington

DC

5.4

1

Chicago

IL

4.86

2

New York

NY

4.36

3

Philadelphia

PA

4.14

4

St. Louis

MO

4

5

Detroit

MI

3.79

6

Atlanta

GA

3.15

7

Boston

MA

3.07

8

Miami

FL

2.7

9

San Francisco

CA

2.57

10


Datasheet

Please click here to access the datasheet

References

Data sources for each parameter:

1.Population - https://www.statista.com/statistics/183600/population-of-metropolitan-areas-in-the-us/

2.Air Quality - https://www.epa.gov/outdoor-air-quality-data/air-quality-index-report

3.Obesity rate - http://www.city-data.com/

4.Access to Exercise - https://www.countyhealthrankings.org/explore-health-rankings/measures-data-sources/county-health-rankings-model/health-factors/health-behaviors/diet-exercise/access-to-exercise-opportunities 

5.Health insurance rate - https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/bellinghamcitywashington,annarborcitymichigan,madisoncitywisconsin,bendcityoregon/PST045219 

6.Healthy diet access - http://www.city-data.com/ 

7.Income level (compared with the National Average) - https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/bellinghamcitywashington,annarborcitymichigan,madisoncitywisconsin,bendcityoregon/PST045219 

8.Marital Status Rate - https://censusreporter.org/profiles/16000US4105800-bend-or/ 

9.Flight Connectivity (Commercial ops + Air taxis) - http://www.city-data.com/ 

10.Crime Rate - http://www.city-data.com/ 

11.Law Enforcement Officers per 1,000 residents - http://www.city-data.com/

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