Best Places to Live

2014 Best Places to Retire

How did we create our Top 10 list of best retirement cities?

First, we spent some time considering who was retiring and what retirement might look like for them. Each day, nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65. Retirement is within reach. It’s time for days of leisure, travel, golf, and playing with the grandkids or in the area pickleball league. Nearly four in 10 Boomers plan to move when they retire, so this list is meant to provide some suggestions.

Today’s retirees are living longer, more active lifestyles. Access to affordable and quality health care is an important consideration. We used data from Esri and the County Health Rankings to find cities that have access to a large number of hospitals and doctors, and yet still have low health-care costs. We also looked at factors related to the quality of care including making sure that seniors and other at-risk groups have access to social and emotional support.

We looked for areas that have an active population and ways to stay active. Natural amenities, a temperate climate (as measured by the difference in January and July temperatures), golf courses, Walk Score and the number of golf courses were all considered.

For people on a fixed income, affordability is often an issue, so we looked at housing affordability measured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Location Affordability Index. Overall cost of living was factored in as was the crime rate.

Most of these measures were selected from our overall Best Places to Live metrics with special attention paid to specific concerns of seniors and Boomers. But we also wanted to add some senior-specific metrics. We looked at Census data and data from Esri’s consumer segmentation system, Tapestry, to find areas with heavy concentrations of seniors and businesses and services that cater to them. Research has shown that people are staying in the workforce later in life, so we also analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find areas with low unemployment for seniors. Finally, using data from Kiplinger, we gave bonus points to cities located in states that have a tax climate that is especially friendly to retirees.

The result is a geographically dispersed group of cities. Not all retirees want to settle down in Florida and Arizona or golf 365 days a year – but we have options for those who do, as well as those looking for some place with four seasons.

Take a look at the list and let us know about your perfect retirement destination in the comments. 

Ranking Criteria
Health Care
Cost of Living
Recreational Amenities
Age Diversity
Social or Emotional Support Services
  • 10

    Coeur d'Alene, ID

    Population: 46,796
    Photo courtesy of Coeur d’Alene CVB

    Retirees looking for a laid-back lifestyle in a city that resembles a vacation retreat will find Coeur d'Alene, ID, a viable option. Many retirees discover Coeur d'Alene first as a vacation destination before they realize it's a best place to retire. Barbara Walters once named Coeur d'Alene as one of the country's most fascinating places. The city overlooks Lake Coeur d'Alene, but is also within short driving distance of more than 50 lakes and dozens of evergreen topped mountains. Coeur d'Alene's waterfront location, large assortment of golf courses and ample fishing spots combine with excellent health care, affordable housing and good tax benefits to make it one of the best places to retire.

    Downtown Coeur d'Alene is an inviting area featuring more than 125 shops and restaurants in a six-block area. Bikers will find more than 150 miles of trails to ride on in and around the city. Centennial Trail, one of the most popular, meanders for 24 miles from Lake Coeur d'Alene to the Washington state line.

    The city and nearby areas offer more than 20 independent living, senior apartments and retirement communities. Lake City Center gives citizens 60 and over a place to gather for socialization, educational programs, meals and activities. The Jewett House also offers activities for seniors.

    Idaho's tax policies are generally favorable to retirees. Social Security benefits are not taxed, and primary residences are eligible for a property tax exemption of up to 50 percent of assessed value.