December 9, 2015 — For a surprising number of baby boomers the ideal retirement is not in an active community with a golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, or clubhouse. Neither is it a small town, nor a postcard pretty burg with a college as its centerpiece. Instead, many surprise their friends by moving from the suburbs to of all places – a city. While an unexpected choice, there are any number of good reasons to make this move, akin to a salmon swimming upstream. This article will explore the many advantages and disadvantages of an urban retirement lifestyle, and then we will provide a list of 10 great cities where you can retire.
As we are fond of saying, retirement is a chance at a do-over on life. Lets say you have regrets about some choices you made during adulthood – like where you chose to live or what you did for a living. Now that you are
retired – so what! If you have the resources, once you retire you can do anything you want. And if moving to a city is your dream, we say go ahead and do it!
So many advantages
Cultural choices. Perhaps the biggest plus of living in the city is having so many choices of what to do. Everyday in the city you face a plethora of opportunities – which museum, gallery, sporting event, concert, lecture, book talk, walking tour – etc. should you experience? Or, you could just explore new neighborhoods on your own – on foot or your bike.
Perhaps you are crazy about food. Most cities have far more restaurants than you could ever sample, but you could try! New ones open up all the time with every type of ethnic cuisine, and they don’t necessarily have to be expensive. There are always interesting bars and wine bars to explore. Or, if you like to cook, there are always great markets where you can buy high quality and unusual ingredients to use in your home cooking adventures.
Shopping that never ends. One of the great things about a vibrant city is the range and quantity of shops. Whether it is department stores, or those that specialize in antiques, rugs, jewelery, bric-brac, books, art, clothes – whatever – you can enjoy amazing variety and quality. You don’t necessarily have to buy what tempts you – but you might!
Socialization. In the city you are likely to find many kindred spirits. You will live in a building where you will be at least in nodding acquaintance with many. You’ll get to know local shopkeepers and neighbors, along with people in the local restaurants or cultural venues. While you might have socialized with your neighbors in the suburbs, you will have a chance to meet people who might be very different and more interesting than you are used to.
Transportation without the automobile. In the suburbs getting in the car to go everywhere can be quite tiresome. While maybe not exactly on your timetable, in the city you can enjoy using a subway, bus, or high speed rail to get to your destination, and not have to worry about finding a parking space. As you age and driving becomes problematic, public transportation insures you can still get out and about safely. You will find walking to the things you need in the neighborhood is a lot nicer than having to drive everywhere.
Low maintenance. Chances are you will be living in a condo or rental apartment in the city, or a development close by. The exterior of the building is not your responsibility, so no need to worry about finding a roofer, someone to clean out the gutters, shovel snow, cut grass, or paint the house. Inside your own walls, you can usually call the super for help or advice on who to hire.
Livability. All of the things we have mentioned so far add up to livability – the ability to live your life with a minimum of hassles and a maximum of enjoyments. For many who choose an urban retirement lifestyle, better livability is the most pleasurable thing about it. And unlike living in the suburbs or community where you tend to be removed from your neighbors, the livability advantages in the city increase as you age.
Some Disadvantages too
Unfortunately, living in the big city usually comes with a fairly big price tag. Some cities like New York and San Francisco are out of range except for people with ample resources. But there are many livable cities where a modest apartment can be purchased or rented for about the same as what you might get for your house in an affluent suburb. And, you will probably save on maintenance and transportation costs to help out.
Crowding, noise, smells
Living in the city isn’t for everybody. Some people can’t get used to people everywhere, or the noise and strange smells. But others find those inconveniences a small price to pay for an exciting lifestyle.
You will probably feel safer in a small town or suburbs than in a big city. But, if you choose your neighborhood carefully you probably have no worries, unless you like to walk around in the middle of the night. Crime figures can be very hard to decipher – violent crime and gangs tend to be in certain neighborhoods you might never visit.
10 Great Cities for Retirement
Here are links to Topretirement profiles of some of the best “best retirement cities”. We didn’t include some very large cities that are fantastic places to retire, like Chicago, New York, Washington because they are quite expensive. Fortunately most of the same amenities can be found in a lesser scale in mid-size to smaller cities as well, which we are including here. You should also check out the cities listed in our recent article, “10 Great Places for LGBTs (and Everyone) to Retire“, because they are interesting retirement cities to consider too.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The scale and layout of this western PA city makes it so attractive. Along with multiple universities and affordable living. We know people who love retirement here.
New Haven, Connecticut. You have Yale, Long Wharf Theater, wine bars and restaurants. Bored – hope on Metro North and arrive in Grand Central Terminal an hour and half later! Our friends love living in a downtown high rise rental.
Long Beach, California. Long Beach, with its population over 600,000, has many resources including an active convention center. It also has miles of beaches and commuter trains to LA. It enjoys a very high walkability score.
Portland, Oregon. Chances are you know someone who has moved to either Portland or Seattle for the lifestyle. Restaurants, recreation, bookstores (think Powells), coffee, and unbelievable biking.
Santa Barbara, California. This California city mid-way up the coast is especially beautiful, with a fantastic main street that ends at the ocean. Thanks to the nearby wineries, it is a foodies’ paradise.
Sarasota, Florida. Just today we had a friend tell me how much he loves Sarasota – always something going on in this city with walkable neighborhoods. Outstanding museums and a circus heritage!
Tulsa, Oklahoma. If there is a top candidate for most under-rated city, this could be it. Tulsa is considered Oklahoma’s cultural and arts center, as it is home to two world-renowned art museums, along with professional opera and ballet companies.
Greenville, South Carolina. Your editor hears lots of good things about retirement in Greenville, and knows of several people planning on retiring to the area. The downtown has been the subject of intense and successful redevelopment efforts It won Great American Main Street awards from the National Trust for Historical Preservation in 2003 and 2009. It is a small city but many people live in the surrounding area.
Portland, Maine. We just spent a fair amount of time in Portland, and must confess the urge to move here (seasonally) was strong. It is a foodie’s paradise with great restaurants all over, the fabulous Maine coastline. Whole Foods and Trader Joes are practically within snowball (oops, there go get winters here!) distance of each other.
It’s your retirement, so why not live it to the fullest. If you want to live life at the center of the universe, the urban retirement lifestyle just might be for you. Why not take a mini-vacation and stay in a few cities and see how you like it. Don’t forget, Airbnb.com might be a good way to do that.
For further reading
Check Out A New Urbanism Retirement
These College Towns Make for a Great Retirement
Accidental New Yorkers: The Grandparents
Comments? Have you thought about retiring to a city? Any places in particular? Please share your experiences and opinions in the Comments section below.