The Most Important Thing to Consider When Looking for a Place to Retire
As millions of baby boomers near retirement, the question that often bubbles to the surface is, “Where should I retire?”
And, as it happens, there are quite a lot of people out there who are just waiting to give guidance on this complex decision.
Different lists, differing results
Every few weeks, it seems, another institution comes out with a list of the, “Top 10 Cities for Seniors,” or the, “7 Worst Places to Retire.”
The most recent iteration on this trend comes from Bankrate, an online aggregator of financial information and content. For their list, “Best Places to Retire: How Your State Ranks,” Bankrate analyzed all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) on several different data points, including: average cost of living, average temperature, crime rate, state and local tax rates, the number of doctors per 100,000 people, and the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people.
According to Bankrate’s calculations, the top three states for retirees were; Tennessee (#1), Louisiana (#2) and South Dakota (#3). The states that fell to the bottom of the list: Washington (#49), Alaska (#50) and Oregon (#51).
Then there’s Forbes’, “25 Best Places to Retire in 2013,” which stands in stark contrast to Bankrate’s list. Forbes cites Medford, Oregon, as well as several cities in Arizona—which ranked #33, according to Bankrate—as prime places for retirees.
Forbes used similar data as Bankrate: crime rates, availability of health care, living and housing costs, taxes and weather. However, they included a few additional variables, such as: air quality, and information on volunteerism.
Also included in the Forbes analysis was data from the Milken Institute’s, “Best Cities for Successful Aging,” report, released in July 2012.
The Milken Institute, a nonprofit economic think tank, took a somewhat different approach than Bankrate and Forbes to tackling the issue of the best areas for aging adults to live. Their analysis delved deeper into the issue of which community resources are most truly the most valuable for aging adults, at different stages of their elder-hood.
Milken divided their list into two separate age groups; one for those aged 80 years, and older, and one for those between the ages of 65 and 79. In the 80-plus group, factors such as healthcare and weather were given greater weight. For those aged 65 to 79, factors influencing the ability to lead an active lifestyle were considered more important.
Discover more information on the best cities for seniors, according to the Milken Institute.
Finding the right retirement spot for you
The above examples are just a few of the countless “Best Places” lists presented to aging Americans each year. These compilations are so prolific that it’s hard for the average consumer not to get lost in a sea of conflicting conclusions.
But the overall value of such inventories to the average American adult is questionable.
After all, there are a host of personal factors that each prospective retiree must take into account for him or herself. Just because a person turns 65, doesn’t mean that their needs and wants suddenly align with everyone else in their age group. What makes a community an ideal retirement spot for one person, may be completely counter-productive for another.
The one exception to this rule, studies have shown, is that the vast majority of adults agree on their preference to “age in place” in their own home, as opposed to moving to a senior living facility.
Keep reading to discover what community features experts say allow adults to successfully age in place…
What do you need to age in place?
Given this fact, it seems as though the first question you should ask when deciding where you want to retire is: “Where can I most easily age in place?”
It is a question that, unfortunately, is not very easy to answer.
Aging in place doesn’t mean simply being able to remain in your own home for the rest of your life. It means being able to continue to live in your home and remain an active part of your community for as long as you want to.
According to new report from the Stanford Center on Longevity and the MetLife Mature Markets Research Institute, there are a few community factors that are essential to furthering the goal of aging in place:
- A variety of housing options that are affordable and accessible, so that aging adults can more easily receive visitors and, if necessary, professional in-home caregivers.
- A robust transportation network that includes: a range of public transportation options, neighborhoods that are walkable, and roads that are relatively safe to travel.
- Easy access to different healthcare options, including: doctors, hospitals and preventive care initiatives, as well as caregiving services, such as adult day care, home health care and meals-on-wheels.
- Ability to acquire healthful food from both grocery stores and local restaurants, preferably within easy walking distance from the person’s primary residence.
- Programs that provide aging adults with the opportunity to engage with the greater community. Examples include: universities and colleges, volunteer organizations, libraries, religious organizations, etc.
That last bullet-point is especially important. A community with more varied opportunities for engagement is more likely to appeal to the multitude of baby boomers that are used to being active members of their local community.
Of course, the above list doesn’t encompass every consideration of those who are at, or nearing retirement age. Each individual also needs to take into account the factors that are unique to their situation.
For example, you may want to live close to your adult children and their families (or you may want to go somewhere far, far away). Your financial situation may allow you to live anywhere you want, or it may narrow your list of options considerably.
There’s no right answer; no magical list that can point out the ideal retirement situation for you. You may be able to use these registers to get some inspiration and insight into areas of the country that you don’t know a lot about, but the choice on where to live out your “golden” years is ultimately an individual one.
What are you looking for in your ideal retirement community? What will be the deciding factor that will determine where you settle down after you officially leave the work force?
By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor