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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor
| September 20, 2019
The lapping waves. The majestic views. The vitamin D. Who can resist the siren song of life at the beach—and why would you want to? A growing body of research is confirming that waterfront living is good for you. For example, a recent study from Hong Kong, which focused predominantly on older citizens, found that closer proximity and more frequent visits to bodies of water correlates with higher reports of wellness, in terms of both physical and mental health. Plus, the increased opportunity for physical outdoor activity—whether it be walking the shores, paddling the surface, or diving into the deep—also offers proven health benefits. And while the ocean may be the natural go-to for those seeking water-related therapy, studies show that any so-called blue space—a term for any aquatic feature including lakes and rivers—can help boost your well-being.
So even if you can't quite afford a pricey oceanfront home for your retirement, you can still enjoy the benefits of retiring to a beach in hotspots all across America. Even in the Heartland, far from the coast, many U.S. locales offer access to freshwater beaches on lakes and rivers. We pinpointed a great place to retire in each state, taking into account living costs, safety, median incomes and poverty rates for retirement-age residents, as well as residents' sense of well-being and the availability of recreational and health care facilities. Of our 50 picks, 29 choice retirement destinations offer the added benefit of nearby beaches, within a 30-minute drive, where you can swim and bum around. The mix of retirement cities is sure to surprise you.
The list is ordered alphabetically by state. See "How We Picked the Best Places for Early Retirement" at the end of the list for details on our data sources and methodology.
City population: 298,225
Share of population 65+: 9.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 26.8% above the national average
Average income for population 65+: $70,291
State's tax rating for retirees: Most Tax Friendly
Popular Local Beaches: Beaches at Goose Lake Park, Jewell Lake, Little Campbell Lake and Kincaid Park
The Last Frontier might be the last place you'd think of for a beachfront retirement. But Anchorage does experience hot summer days, and you can find plenty of beaches around to enjoy them. Among the choices are Goose Lake Park, Jewell Lake and Little Campbell Lake, as well as the sweeping beach at Kincaid Park.
To get you through the rest of the year, including the long winters, it pays to live in Alaska. Literally. A state fund fueled by oil wealth gives all permanent residents an annual dividend. In 2018, the payment was $1,600 per person.
And residents could certainly use the extra cash. Living costs throughout Alaska are significantly higher than is typical across the continental U.S. But Anchorage is the least expensive metro area in the state. Plus, being the largest city in Alaska, it offers more amenities including numerous theaters, museums and shopping centers, on top of all the outdoor recreation you'd expect. It also has an abundance of health care facilities, more than 41 establishments per 1,000 seniors in the metro area compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
City population: 113,147
Share of population 65+: 16.0%
Cost of living for retirees: 40.6% above the national average
State's tax rating for retirees: Mixed
Popular Local Beaches: Tamarack-State Beach and South Ponto Beach
Part of the San Diego metro area, Carlsbad offers a small-city feel with easy access to big-city amenities alongside seven miles of Pacific Ocean coastline. You can also find 40 parks, more than 50 miles of hiking trails and a full calendar of artsy offerings, including Foreign Film Fridays in the spring and free concerts in the summer. Not that there are really seasons in Carlsbad: Throughout the year, average highs fall between 62 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit, and average lows only go down to between 45 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Weather.com. And rainy days are rare. Plus, you can choose among a host of retirement communities with ocean views.
Of course, you have to be able to afford it. Like much of California—where living costs are 69% above the national average, making it the second-most expensive state in the country behind only Hawaii—Carlsbad and the whole metro area is a pricey place to live. For example, the median home value in the U.S. is $229,000, according to Zillow; in California, it's $548,600; and in Carlsbad, it's (brace yourself) $860,700, which is still better than San Diego's stunning $1.4 million median. And taxes throughout Cali also weigh heavily on your wallet.
City population: 678,467
Share of population 65+: 11.2%
Cost of living for retirees: 9.4% above the national average
Average income for population 65+: $59,601
Popular Local Beaches: Confluence Park beach
Denver actually has a bit of beach downtown at Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek and South Platte River meet. You can also check out the beaches at Aurora's Cherry Creek State Park and at the reservoirs in Aurora and Boulder—all within a 30-mile radius of Denver.
The local beaches and other outdoor amenities help encourage a healthy lifestyle. Colorado ranks fourth in the United Health Foundation's senior health rankings, and Denver plays a healthy role in that rating. Indeed, the Milken Institute, a think tank, ranked the metro area the 12th best big city for successful aging in large part due to Denver’s healthy and active senior population.
Other strengths of the area include high employment and economic stability, as well as quality infrastructure, with well-funded transit for older adults, highly rated nursing homes and ample continuing care. Indeed, the Denver metro area is home to more than 24 health care facilities per 1,000 seniors, compared with just 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
Photo by Justin G. Coleman via Wikimedia Commons
City population: 46,747
Share of population 65+: 14.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 19.2% above the national average*
Average income for population 65+: n/a
State's tax rating for retirees: Least Tax Friendly
Popular Local Beaches: Wadsworth Falls State Park, Harvey's Beach, Sound View Beach
This small city, part of the Hartford metro area, is about 25 miles from the Long Island Sound and within an hour of many of the area's most popular beaches. And depending on the route you take (and how fast you drive), you can get from Middletown to Sound View Beach in Old Lyme or Harvey's Beach in Old Saybrook within about 30 minutes. Even closer: In town, along the Coginchaug River, you can visit Wadsworth Falls State Park, where there's about 300 feet of beach on a freshwater pond, along with five miles of trails and the park's eponymous waterfall.
Plus, being home to Wesleyan University, Middletown offers all the benefits of retiring to a college town, including numerous restaurants, shops and cultural attractions. You can also take advantage of the Wesleyan Institute for Lifelong Learning, which offers no-credit courses, lectures and other educational opportunities at minimal cost and is open to the entire community.
Note: While the nearby city of Hartford has an alarmingly high crime rate—with 1,093.8 violent crimes per 100,000 residents reported, compared with the national rate of 473.2 for cities of similar size—Middletown is far safer with a mere 49 violent crimes total reported for the year.
*Data for the Hartford metropolitan statistical area, which includes Middletown.
City population: 10,654
Share of population 65+: 19.7%
Cost of living for retirees: n/a
State's tax rating for retirees: Tax Friendly
Popular Local Beaches: Slaughter Beach
If you're thinking about heading to one of Delaware's popular beach towns for retirement, brace yourself for sticker shock. Better yet, consider instead the more affordable Milford, where overall living costs are about the same as the national average, according so Sperling's BestPlaces. By comparison, the cost of living in popular Bethany Beach, about 40 miles south of Milford and right on the coast, is a whopping 83.2% above the national average. Indeed, median home values in Milford are far lower than in Bethany Beach at $224,500 and $436,100, respectively, according to Zillow.
The small inland city is about 10 miles from Slaughter Beach, so you can still hit the shore with a 15-minute drive. And if you do want to visit the more popular Delaware beaches, it takes about 40 minutes to drive to Rehoboth or Dewey and another 10 to 20 minutes to Bethany. You can also enjoy some waterfront views in town along the Mispillion River. Downtown, there are numerous restaurants and boutiques, as well as the Milford Museum and the Riverfront Theater, where the Second Street Players, a community theater group, produces and performs a variety of shows and hosts movie nights.
City population: 173,679
Share of population 65+: 21.9%
Cost of living for retirees: 2.4% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $42,123
Popular Local Beaches: Yacht Club Beach, Four Freedoms Park Beach
With its desirable climate and favorable tax status, Florida is filled with popular retirement destinations. Many of our favorite retirement spots in the Sunshine State can be found along the Gulf Coast including St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Punta Gorda.
Cape Coral's metro area includes Fort Myers, yet another great place to consider for your retirement. But Cape Coral is unique in its waterway access, offering more than 400 miles of canals for all your boating, fishing and water sports dreams. And land lovers can enjoy the area's beaches, golfing, tennis, parks and other recreational offerings.
City population: 196,899
Share of population 65+: 12.8%
Cost of living for retirees: 9.5% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $44,141
Popular Local Beaches: Clarks Hill Lake, Langley Pond Park
Some of the best coastal beaches in Georgia—Tybee Island, Jekyll Island and Cumberland Island National Seashore—are a three- to four-hour drive from Augusta. But within about 30 minutes, you can find a couple of freshwater beach options at Clarks Hill Lake in Lincolnton, Georgia, and Langley Pond Park in Langley, South Carolina. In town, you can also enjoy kayaking and cruising along the Savannah River, as well as running, walking and biking along the Augusta Canal.
With its low living costs and generous tax breaks for seniors, Georgia ranks third among our Best States for Retirement, behind only Hawaii and (surprisingly) South Dakota. And Augusta is ripening into a particularly peachy city. Revitalization efforts have been pushing especially hard over the past several years, looking to expand the area's appeal beyond the annual Masters golf tournament in April and its accompanying celebrations and tourism revenue. In a walkable downtown, retirees can enjoy new restaurants, museums, galleries and nightlife venues. And even more is on the way with a $94 million plan in the works to redevelop a historic train depot property on the riverfront into a modern mixed-use complex of offices, apartments, retailers and restaurants.
Augusta University, along with other area schools, adds some nice college-town amenities, including free classes for Georgia residents age 62 and up. The University also supplies the region with a top-notch health care network, including three hospitals and numerous specialists focused on oncology, geriatrics and senior health.
City population: 45,703
Share of population 65+: 18.5%
Cost of living for retirees: n/a
Average income for population 65+: $54,503
Popular Local Beaches: Carlsmith Beach Park and Richardson's Ocean Park
Hawaii is well known for its beautiful beaches, enviable climate and high prices. In Hilo, on the Big Island, the overall cost of living is 36.4% above the national average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces. But at least that's more affordable than capital city Honolulu, on Oahu, where living costs are a steep 101.1% above the national average. The median home value in Hilo is $339,800, according to Zillow—still pricey, to be sure, compared with the U.S. median of $229,000, but much more reasonable than the $676,100 median in Honolulu.
And the local lifestyle is still priceless. The colonial town's mood is quiet and calm, but its location on the eastern coast of the island and near active volcano Mauna Loa offers plenty of opportunities for adventure. You can explore rainforests and waterfalls, as well as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In the downtown and waterfront areas, enjoy galleries, shops, restaurants and museums, including the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center. And while the island's most popular beaches are up to 80 miles away on the opposite coast, Hilo has several quality options—though some have rocky shorelines and uniquely black sand—right in town where you can swim, snorkel and soak up the aloha spirit.
Courtesy Allen County Parks
City population: 262,450
Share of population 65+: 13.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 11.5% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $47,848
Popular Local Beaches: Fox Island
The Fort Wayne metro area's affordability will not cost you in amenities. Despite being home to a nice collection of quiet neighborhoods, it also houses a thriving arts scene and hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the family-friendly Three Rivers Festival in the summers. Indeed, the three local rivers—the St. Marys, the St. Joseph and the Maumee—are a main feature of the area, providing ample opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and cruising. In town, you can enjoy Fox Island's beach on Bowman Lake and a separate dog beach for your furry friends. Within an hour's drive, there are also beaches at Pokagon State Park in Angola, Chain O'Lakes State Park in Albion and Winona Lake. More outdoor attractions: Fort Wayne is more than 80 parks and 100 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Fort Wayne is by no means a metropolis, but if you ever feel the need for a small-town escape head two hours south to Richmond, the cheapest small town in America. Its claim to fame (other than being budget-friendly): Some of the earliest jazz records were recorded in Richmond by such greats as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.
Courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
City population: 55,427
Share of population 65+: 8.2%
Cost of living for retirees: 8.4% below the national average
Popular Local Beaches: Tuttle Creek State Park
The Little Apple may not have all the bright lights and major metropolitan allure of New York City, but it has plenty to recommend itself, as well as significantly lower costs. (The cost of living for retirees in New York's Manhattan is 123.5% above the national average with housing a ridiculous 406.2% above average.) Housing costs for retirees in this Manhattan are particularly affordable at 17.2% below the national average. And yet, the average income for all households with earnings is a comfortable $64,135 a year.
Home to Kansas State University, Manhattan affords residents attractive college-town amenities, including the privilege of calling the school's top-notch athletics program your home team. One particularly senior-friendly offering: The university, in collaboration with the local UFM Community Learning Center and the University of Kansas Osher Institute, offers courses year-round for $50 each, along with special events, aimed at encouraging lifelong learning, especially for locals age 50 and older. The city is also developing an expanded trail system—beyond the existing 40 miles of trails throughout the city—for walking and biking throughout the city. And at Tuttle Creek State Park's River Pond, you can enjoy a swimming beach amidst the 1,200-acre park, where there are also campgrounds, nature trails, picnic areas, horse shoe pits, an archery range and more.
City population: 66,715
Share of population 65+: 13.7%
Cost of living for retirees: 17.1% above the national average
Average income for population 65+: $44,769
Popular Local Beaches: Crescent Beach, Ferry Beach, Old Orchard Beach
The largest city in Maine, Portland offers a lively downtown and plenty of urban-esque amenities amidst the great outdoors of the Pine Tree State. You can enjoy museums, theaters and an array of eclectic dining. The flagship L.L. Bean store in nearby Freeport is a must-see for many visitors, but resident shoppers also flock to Portland’s unique boutiques and outlets.
All the while, you’re never too far from the area's many beaches. That means ample opportunity to lounge on the shore or dive into water-based activities including fishing, kayaking, sailing and even surfing. And of course, hiking and biking trails abound—perfect in the (much) colder months, too, for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Photo by Forsaken Fotos via flickr
City population: 16,606
Share of population 65+: 23.5%
Popular Local Beaches: Matapeake Beach
On the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, this small town is packed with history, charm and senior residents. You can find a surprising number of eclectic dining options in town, as well as an array of boutique shops, art galleries and other cultural attractions. In fact, in July 2019, Easton was named one of two new Arts and Entertainment Districts in Maryland, joining the 26 existing Districts in the state in offering tax incentives to local artists and creative businesses. Qualifying developers and organizations will get a property tax abatement for artistic-related improvements to their buildings, and local artists can score a state income tax deduction for all art created and sold within the 110-acre district.
And you could use the extra opportunity to save. Maryland is, by and large, a wealthy area, home to a great number of millionaires, and the living costs reflect that. The cost of living for all residents in Easton are 13.8% above the national average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces, which makes it at least more affordable than Annapolis, on the opposite shore of the bay, where living costs are 41% above the national average. And water-loving retirees still have access to the same torrent of activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, boating and fishing, common on the Chesapeake Bay. Note though that it typically takes a long drive to cross the Bay, putting most of the popular nearby beaches an hour or two away. Matapeake, on Kent Island, is a nice exception, about 30 miles from Easton. It includes a public swimming beach, as well as a dog beach.
City population: 43,289
Share of population 65+: 19.0%
Cost of living for retirees: 7.9% above the national average
Average income for population 65+: $58,231
State's tax rating for retirees: Not Tax Friendly
Popular Local Beaches: Burbank Park on Onota Lake
New England is notoriously expensive, but Pittsfield, located in the western part of Massachusetts, offers a small pocket of relative affordability—more reasonably priced than Boston and Cambridge, where living costs are, respectively, 48.1% and 38.1% above the U.S. average. Housing is notably affordable: The median home value in the city is $173,200, compared with $407,400 for all of Massachusetts and $592,300 for Boston proper, according to Zillow.
Leaf peeping in the fall may be enough to draw you to the Berkshires. But you have plenty to enjoy all year round, including excellent sites for camping, fishing, hiking and skiing. Several beaches are within a two-hour drive of Pittsfield, and in town, you can hit Burbank Park beach on the shores of Onota Lake. Nearby, enjoy musical performances at the Tanglewood Music Center, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. There’s also world-class art at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCa, for short) in North Adams.
Courtesy Washtenaw County Michigan Parks & Recreation Commission
City population: 119,303
Share of population 65+: 11.3%
Average income for population 65+: $82,971
Popular Local Beaches: Independence Lake Park, Van Buren Park, Island Lake Recreation Area
Another college town well suited to retirees, Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan with all its educational programs (including the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), sporting events and cultural affairs. The university also runs the Geriatrics Center & Institute of Gerontology, which focuses on health care issues that come with aging. Along with its research facilities, medical facilities and staff, the Center offers programs and classes to help older adults maximize their good health and independence.
In fact, Ann Arbor's health care facilities are top-notch, helping to earn it a sixth-place ranking among small metro areas for successful aging, according to the Milken Institute. The area's public transportation options are another noted winning attribute for older residents. Bonus: Within 20 miles of the city are several parks and recreation areas, including Independence Lake Park, Van Buren Park and Island Lake Recreation Area, that offer beachfront fun.
A downside, however, is affordability. Overall living costs are 27.1% above the national average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces, and the median home value is $378,600, versus just $153,000 for the rest of the state, according to Zillow.
City population: 41,241
Share of population 65+: 11.0%
Cost of living for retirees: 4.4% below the national average
Popular Local Beaches: Hiniker Pond, Lake Washington, Madison Lake
Despite the cold winters (and equally harsh tax situation), the Land of 10,000 Lakes can offer some nice waterfront retirement spots, including Mankato, about 90 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. The many ponds, lakes and rivers in town and nearby offer plenty of opportunities for fishing, boating and swimming. Spring Lake Park in North Mankato also offers a unique sand bottom swimming facility.
For more urban offerings, Mankato is still a small city, but development is on the rise, and the local economy is growing fast. Revitalization projects have added a nice mix of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and more to the downtown area in recent years, and the city's five-year strategic plan aims to spread that level of development throughout the Minnesota River Valley. Some goals of the plan include adding housing, specifically within walking distance of where jobs and shops are; expanding Riverfront Park and other recreational land; and possibly building a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Minnesota River to North Mankato.
So far, all that growth has yet to push up living costs. While other metro areas in Minnesota come with above-average expenses, Mankato's cost of living for retirees (and others) remains below the national average. By comparison, Minneapolis has living costs for retirees 5.7% above the national average. Unfortunately, typical incomes in Mankato are also lower, with the overall annual income for residents with earnings at $62,776, on average, compared with $64,626 in Minneapolis. Still, the poverty rate for residents 65 and older is lower at 7.8% in Mankato, compared with 12.6% in Minneapolis and 9.3% in the whole U.S.
Photo by Kunjan Shah via flickr
City population: 476,974
Share of population 65+: 12.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 3.7% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $47,657
Popular Local Beaches: Shawnee Mission Park Beach
The Kansas City metro area straddles two states and offers a wide range of attractions for people of all ages including retirees. In the summer months, you can enjoy the beach at local lakes, including the Shawnee Mission Park Beach in a nearby Kansas suburb. The music and arts scene is particularly vibrant, being home to legendary jazz musician Charlie Parker as well as the American Jazz Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Kansas City Art Institute. For foodies, authentic barbecue is big, too. And you can entertain visiting grandkids with Legoland, the Sea Life aquarium and the Kansas City Zoo.
Also, while the University of Missouri's main campus is about 125 miles east in Columbia, the school brings more than 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as all the amenities of college life, to its Kansas City campus. It even offers an all-volunteer education program called Communiversity, offering a wide variety of classes and seminars to the entire metro area. Class fees range from just $10 to $18, plus a $3 registration fee, but students age 65 and older can skip the registration fee and get a discount of $1 off the first class and $2 off all subsequent classes.
City population: 43,132
Share of population 65+: 8.6%
Cost of living for retirees: 3.2% above the national average
State's tax rating for retirees: Not Tax Friendly
Popular Local Beaches: East Gallatin Recreation Area (a.k.a. Bozeman Beach)
If you've ever dreamed of retiring to the mountains, here's your chance. Bozeman is in southern Montana, nestled in the Gallatin Valley and surrounded by majestic ranges and national forests. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks sit due south of Bozeman. The geography means you have to be comfortable hiking, mountain biking, skiing and backcountry exploring your way through retirement. Hunting and fishing are also popular local activities. In the East Gallatin Recreation Area, you can even enjoy a small beach at the pond along with rock climbing, hiking and fishing.
But don't expect total isolation. Montana State University's Bozeman campus is home to about nearly 17,000 students. Exuberant co-eds might not be the neighbors you pictured in your mountain-view retirement destination, but you may enjoy the dining, culture and entertainment options that come with a college town.
Courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
City population: 277,315
Share of population 65+: 12.5%
Cost of living for retirees: 6.1% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $50,654
Popular Local Beaches: Branched Oak State Recreation Area, Pawnee State Recreation Area
Lincoln may not be home to financial guru Warren Buffett like Omaha, which is about an hour north, but it has plenty of other notable points to recommend it. The capital city offers an abundance of attractions, including more than 130 parks, fine restaurants, an active nightlife and a number of museums and theaters. Highlights include the Sunken Gardens (for budding horticulturalists) and the Museum of American Speed (for car enthusiasts). And nearby, you can relax or play waterside, despite the state's landlocked position. The Branched Oak and Pawnee state recreation areas each feature two swimming beaches, as well as opportunities for boating, hiking, hunting, horseback riding and more.
Being a college town, home to both the University of Nebraska's Lincoln campus and Union College, the population may skew young. But the city is also prepared to assist its aging residents with about 30 health-care and social service facilities per 1,000 seniors, compared with about 19 per 1,000 seniors in the U.S.
City population: 239,732
Share of population 65+: 13.8%
Cost of living for retirees: 10.4% above the national average
Average income for population 65+: $51,061
Popular Local Beaches: Sparks Marina Park
Whether or not you like to gamble, retiring to Reno can make you feel like you've hit the jackpot. Boasting a small-town feel with big-city amenities, the locale proclaims itself "The Biggest Little City in the World." And it backs up the claim, offering a downtown full of restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries and music venues, on top of its well-known casinos.
Outdoor enthusiasts also win. Sparks Marina Park, about 10 minutes from Reno, centers around a 77-acre lake and offers two sandy beaches, a two-mile walking path, a fishing pier and more. The nearby Sierra Nevada mountain range and Lake Tahoe also provide ample opportunities for hiking, biking and boating in warm weather, and skiing in winter. You’ll be in good company. Gardnerville Ranchos, a small Nevada town near Lake Tahoe, is home to a surprising number of millionaires who share the same resorts and marinas.
City population: 16,237
Share of population 65+: 20.5%
Popular Local Beaches: Bartlett Beach, Bond Beach, Weirs Beach
Tiny Laconia offers a big bargain for your retirement destination. The overall cost of living is 1.2% below the national average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces, making it much more affordable than Manchester—about 50 miles south—where living costs are 13.2% above average. But local average incomes are still high, averaging $71,605 for residents across all ages. That adds up to favorable odds for a balanced budget. And the Granite State's tax situation for retirees is solid, too.
Tucked between Lake Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam Lake, Laconia has been dubbed "The City on the Lake," home city to New Hampshire's Lakes Region. That means plenty of beaches and water-related activities for you in the warmer months. Other outdoor recreation abounds nearby, too. Gunstock Mountain Resort in neighboring Gilford, for example, offers camping, ziplining and snow sports, as well as fairs, events and dining options. Local crime may be worth noting: While the state sports a low rate of 1.99 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, Laconia's rate is 4.68, even slightly higher than the national median of 4 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, according to NeighborhoodScout.com. On the bright side, between 2009 and 2018, there have been only two murders in town, according to the community's police department. The site lists Parade Road-Old North Main Street and Weirs Beach-Lakeport as the safest neighborhoods in Laconia.
City population: 11,328
Share of population 65+: 29.3%
Popular Local Beaches: 9th Street, Waverly Blvd. (surfing beach), 59th Street
The Garden State offers a number of appealing retirement destinations for those who can afford it. Ocean City is a particularly attractive spot, evidenced by the high share of seniors who have already chosen to reside there. Family-friendly beaches, a fun three-mile boardwalk and proximity to Atlantic City are notable draws.
But yes, it's going to cost you. Living costs and taxes are notoriously high all over Jersey. In Ocean City, the cost of living for all residents is a whopping 62.2% above the national average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces. And housing is particularly expensive with the median home value within city limits at a hefty $611,100, compared with $327,800 for the state and $229,000 for the U.S., according to Zillow. Plus, you have to budget extra for insurance to protect against possible storm and flood damage. Note, too, that Ocean City is a dry town, but you don't have to travel far to buy your booze.
City population: 209,463
Share of population 65+: 10.3%
Cost of living for retirees: 0.7% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $47,912
Popular Local Beaches: Ontario Beach Park, Durand Eastman Beach
While much of New York comes with above-average living costs, Rochester proves more affordable, slightly below average for retirees. Housing costs are notably cheap at about 10% below average for retired residents. Indeed, the median home value is a mere $79,000, according to Zillow, compared with $229,000 for the entire U.S. and $303,600 in New York state.
That can leave plenty of room in your budget for warm coats, snow shovels and other winter gear. The average snowfall is a heavy 99 inches a year. In January alone over the past two winters, nearly 33 inches of snow fell on Rochester, according to the National Weather Service. Luckily, you have plenty of local wine options to help keep you warm year-round. The surrounding Finger Lakes Region is home to more than 100 wineries, all within a 90-minute drive of Rochester, and Casa Larga Vineyards is located just 20 minutes from downtown. And in the summer, you can enjoy several beaches along Lake Ontario.
Photo by Travis via flickr
Metro population: 550,281 (Durham: 257,170)
Share of population 65+: 13.6% (Durham: 10.8%)
Cost of living for retirees: 10.5% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $63,046 (Durham:$59,567)
Popular Local Beaches: Falls Lake State Recreation Area
Duke University and the University of North Carolina may be bitter sports rivals, but their hometowns of Durham and Chapel Hill, respectively, team up to form a powerhouse metro area, and a great place to retire. Indeed, the Milken Institute ranks Durham-Chapel Hill as the third best large metro area for successful aging—crediting the area's economic strength, as two-thirds of North Carolina's Research Triangle (the other third being Raleigh), and quality health care. The universities play a big role in those two advantages and also boost up the local cultural and recreational scenes, like in many college towns.
The more popular coastal beaches of North Carolina, such as those in the Outer Banks and the Emerald Isle, are a three- to four-hour drive from this metro area. But the Falls Lake State Recreation Area is much closer—less than 30 minutes from Durham—and features five swimming beaches, along with more than 300 campsites and numerous boating ramps, surrounding the 12,000-acre reservoir.
Though not a deal-breaker for every retiree, it’s worth noting that violent crimes are more prevalent in Durham than they are for the nation as a whole. The rate of violent crime is 8.6 per 1,000 residents, according to the Neighborhood Scout, compared with a national median of 4 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. Chapel Hill rates safer, with just 1.8 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. And the real estate values reflect it: The median home value is $382,900 in Chapel Hill and $229,900 in Durham, according to Zillow.
Courtesy Rhode Island Commerce Corporation
City population: 179,509
Share of population 65+: 9.6%
Cost of living for retirees: 21.9% above the national average
Average income for population 65+: $64,657
Popular Local Beaches: Bristol Town Beach, Warren Town Beach, Governor Notte Park
Home to Ivy League Brown University and the world-renowned Rhode Island School of Design, as well as a handful of other colleges, Providence can be a great fit for retired intellectuals and artists. They'll have no shortage of things to do, with the schools offering gallery nights, performing arts events, educational opportunities and more. And the schools' presence has helped draw a variety of restaurants and businesses to the area, too. And of course, the Ocean State has plenty of beaches for a relaxing retirement. Coastal options are an hour or more away from Providence, but some nearby lakes, ponds and reservoirs offer quicker access for a little sun and sand.
Unfortunately, living costs and an unfriendly tax environment can be prohibitive throughout the tiny state, and Providence is no exception.
City population: 120,903
Share of population 65+: 12.0%
Cost of living for retirees: 2.1% above the national average
Average income for population 65+: $45,574
Popular Local Beaches: Kiawah Island, Folly Beach, Sullivan's Island
Southern charm, a rich history, city living and nearby beaches combine to make Charleston a uniquely attractive retirement destination. History buffs, in particular, can appreciate the city's Civil War sites, including Fort Sumter, and well-preserved antebellum architecture. The Preservation Society of Charleston is the oldest community-based historic preservation group in the country.
Foodies, too, can find plenty to enjoy along Charleston’s cobblestone streets, especially in the brunch and comfort food areas. And if you need to work off some of those calories, water sports, including surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking, are popular local activities—along with boating and fishing.
City population: 42,453
Share of population 65+: 10.7%
Cost of living for retirees: 16.4% above the national average
Popular Local Beaches: Blanchard Beach at Oakledge, North Beach, Leddy Beach
This small mountain city on the shores of Lake Champlain is a picturesque setting for tree-hugging retirees. Outdoor recreation is plentiful with miles of hiking and biking paths, nearby beaches where you can swim, kayak or paddleboard in the warmer months, and numerous skiing options in the area. An eco-friendly vibe permeates the town, from the businesses bolstering the city's economy, such as household-products maker Seventh Generation, to the local food movement feeding the neighborhood.
But being green isn't easy on your wallet. Taxes and living costs are high. While the median home value is a low $206,000 in the Green Mountain State, compared with the median $229,000 for the U.S., it climbs to $326,500 in Burlington. A private room in a metro area nursing home costs a median $11,498 a month, compared with $8,365 a month for the U.S. At least you can save money on academic pursuits. The University of Vermont will cover tuition costs for state residents age 65 and older who wish to take a class, even if it's for credit.
City population: 46,487
Share of population 65+: 10.4%
Cost of living for retirees: 0.2% below the national average
Popular Local Beaches: Walnut Creek Park, Chris Greene Lake
Renaissance man Thomas Jefferson laid the foundation for the well-rounded city his hometown has become. From his University of Virginia's hollering Hoos to the artists on the downtown promenade, the Charlottesville community is an unexpected blend of Southern charm and liberal edge, a nice choice for a range of retiree personalities. And beyond the college campus and city center, you can find plenty of options for outdoor recreation in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including more than 100 miles of of the Appalachian Trail in nearby Shenandoah National Park.
In August 2017, Charlottesville captured national attention when a gathering of white nationalists to protest the removal of a monument to Robert E. Lee turned into a violent rally, injuring dozens of counter-protesters and killing one, Heather Heyer. In general though, the city's violent crime rate is a low 175.4 reported incidents per 100,000 residents, compared with a 297.8 rate for all U.S. cities of similar size, according to the FBI. Charlottesville also ranks fifth for overall well-being, out of all 187 metro areas included in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, with above-average scores in all categories, including physical health and resident satisfaction.
Courtesy Washington State Department of Ecology via flickr
City population: 53,991
Share of population 65+: 15.5%
Cost of living for retirees: 1.7% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $70,059
Popular Local Beaches: Leslie Groves Park, Howard Amon Park, Two Rivers Park
Richland's metro area includes Kennewick, both of which qualify as great retirement destinations. But the smaller of the two, Richland, has an older population with a higher average income (Kennewick's is $57,989) and lower poverty rate (7.6% compared with 8.3% in Kennwick—both lower than the national poverty rate of 9.3% for people age 65 and older).
Whether you're partial to exploring the great outdoors or focusing on wine country, you have plenty of options—you don't even have to choose one over the other. You can enjoy boating and fishing on the Columbia, Yakima and Snake Rivers, and hiking or biking on the 23-mile Sacagawea Trail. And the rivers give the area a number of beaches to enjoy, despite being more than 300 miles from the Pacific coast. There are also more than 200 wineries within a 50-mile radius, offering beautiful views and many wines to sample.
City population: 104,796
Share of population 65+: 12.3%
Cost of living for retirees: 10.2% below the national average
Average income for population 65+: $35,380
Popular Local Beaches: Plamann Lake, Sunset Beach
The University of Wisconsin brings all the benefits of retiring in a college town to the industrial city of Green Bay. That includes a thriving cultural and arts scene, quality medical care, a walkable downtown with an array of dining and shopping options and of course sports. Plus, Lake Michigan and a number of smaller lakes provide many nearby beaches for waterfront activity and relaxation, with the biggest and most popular options being an hour or more drive away. And plans are underway to restore the swimming beach on Green Bay itself, now home to the Beach Bay amusement park. The original beach was closed in the 1940s due to concerns about water quality, but the local government has persistently worked to right those issues and reopen the beach. In 2018, water quality was approved, and donations to fund the $7 million restoration project are currently being collected. The Packers have agreed to match $250,000 of fundraising.
And while the state's tax situation leaves something to be desired, low living costs are attractive. Green Bay is particularly affordable, with below-average costs for retirees across all spending categories. Housing expenses are notably low, with costs for retirees falling 20% below the national average. Indeed, the median home value in Green Bay is just $146,500, compared with $229,000 for the U.S., according to Zillow.