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Top retirement cities offer more than just pleasant climates

Mon., March 4, 2013

A young tourist takes in a view of the Boston skyline on a Massachusetts Bay Lines Inc. ship during a Birth of A Nation Harbor Tour. (Associated Press)
A young tourist takes in a view of the Boston skyline on a Massachusetts Bay Lines Inc. ship during a Birth of A Nation Harbor Tour. (Associated Press)

People like to be surrounded by the familiar. The greetings of a longtime neighbor, the knowledge that the dairy is on aisle 7 in the grocery store or the blooming of the same lilac bush every spring are all markers that we are home, where we belong.

For no demographic is this truer than for seniors.

Research indicates that 90 percent of America’s graying population prefers to age in place, where friends, family and a lifetime’s worth of routine and experience abound. But is your area really the best place for an aging senior?

Why are cities good as you get older?

As much as you love the small town you live in, think about moving to a city as you get older.

Currently live near a city? Think about staying. They offer lots of great resources for seniors, such as cultural and educational possibilities, transportation options and universities with top-notch hospitals.

“There’s more to happiness than just sunny days,” says Paul H. Irving, senior managing director and chief operating officer of the Milken Institute, a California-based, nonprofit think tank. “People need to continue to work, stay engaged, stimulated and productive in order to maintain a strong sense of community involvement and happiness.”

What cities are good picks?

In 2012, the Milken Institute released a study, “Best Cities for Successful Aging” that ranks, compares and measures 359 metropolitan areas.

The rankings were based upon 78 indicators, such as health care, wellness, living arrangements, transportation and community engagement, and looked at issues as diverse as cost of living, availability of fitness centers and access to cultural activities.

Interestingly, despite popular belief, cities located in the Midwest and Northeast ranked higher among all satisfaction categories than those in the sunny South.

One reason for this is the large amount of universities and other cultural institutions that offer opportunities for seniors.

While not all of the locations earned high marks in categories, most feature opportunities for seniors to live healthy, active and engaged lives. “The report underlies the importance of staying connected to your people and your life,” said Irving, who lives in California near his aging mom.

Here are the top city lists:

Large metros

1. Provo-Orem, Utah

2. Madison, Wis.

3. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb./Iowa

4. Boston-Cambridge- Quincy, Mass./N.H.

5. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y./N.J./Pa.

6. Des Moines, Iowa

7. Salt Lake City

8. Toledo, Ohio

9. Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Va./Md./W. Va.

10. Pittsburgh

Small metros

1. Sioux Falls, S.D.

2. Iowa City, Iowa

3. Bismarck, N.D.

4. Columbia, Mo.

5. Rochester, Minn.

6. Gainesville, Fla.

7. Ann Arbor, Mich.

8. Missoula

9. Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.

10. Rapid City, S.D.

Vitality, productivity and contribution can and do extend until the very edges of our lives. While needs and preferences vary, certain universal desires tend to hold true.

For older Americans, the ability to age in place near those we love with health, dignity and engagement seem to top the list, no matter what city we call home.

Corey Whelan wrote this for – an online service that matches families with caregivers for children, seniors and pets.

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