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10 Things Your Retirement Town Needs to Offer

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Does Your Retirement Town Deserve You?
April 11, 2018 — When it comes to finding the right retirement town, remember this – you are the customer! After all, even a moderate income couple brings a lot to the party. If you move to a new location to retire you strengthen the local economy by buying or renting a home. Even if you decide not to move and stay where you live now, you add stability to the local real estate market. Wherever you live you (or your landlord) pay sizable property taxes. In many locales you might have to pay local income taxes, which boost the local economy. And, your Social Security, pension, and 401(k) distributions will pump money into local stores and businesses (the so-called mailbox economy) every month.

Rating towns for retirement
Various outfits try to rate towns on the basis of retirement-friendliness. For example, states including Texas (about 50 towns) and Louisiana (8 towns) have “Certified Retirement Community” programs. To qualify as certified, the towns have to pass muster on a variety of criteria. For example in Louisiana, “Housing availability, public safety, crime, public transportation, medical services, health care, volunteer opportunities for seniors, recreational areas, fairs and festivals” all have to be there to be selected. Certain websites and organizations like the Milken Institute also rank towns for retirement using similar criteria. All of these efforts are a good step toward letting retirees know that a place is capable and willing to welcome them.

What value are you getting in return?
Retiring baby boomers should, in our opinion, be demanding shoppers when it comes to selecting a retirement town. Here is our checklist of what you should look for in any town that you consider for retirement, including where you live now. You might not be looking for all of these items (but you might have others!), so your list will be different. In some cases we provide a town that delivers on specific requirements. Note that if you choose to live in a very small town or the countryside it will be tough to get all of these services. But perhaps there are towns or cities nearby where those are available, or maybe what you are looking for is not on this list! The important thing is to have a list to help guarantee that your retirement is as rich and happy as you deserve.

1. Good public health. That includes a highly rated hospital and an engaged public health department that targets older citizens. Is there a hospice nearby, and are there specialists in geriatric medicine and physical therapists?
2. An active community or senior center with professional programming staff. Good ones are busy all day long with active programs to keep citizens engaged. Some offer a hot lunch, others have bridge, crafts, exercise classes, etc.

A new library in Fort Myers

3. A well-funded library with programs aimed at all ages. Most cities do have strong libraries, but some are better than others. These days libraries are as much about the programs they offer and the community they provide than just books. Fort Myers (FL) has a wonderful library system.

4. Senior friendly transportation system. That includes special bike lanes; some form of mass transit including shuttle buses, subway, or light rail; call on demand transportation, and access to a public airport or railroad station within an hour’s drive.

5. Pedestrian friendly layout. Things to look for include downtown streets that are pedestrian only, safe crosswalks with modern signals, and wide sidewalks throughout residential areas. Free or easy parking encourages folks to come to the center of town to enjoy restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Dunedin (FL) is a great example of a town with a pedestrian-friendly layout. There is even an old railroad bed, now a walking/bike path, that runs through the center of town.
6. Lifelong learning opportunities. That could include programs from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (which has programs at about 100 colleges and universities), adult education classes, or a classes available from a local college or community college.
7. Active recreation department. The best departments have a full complement of activities – from softball, basketball and tennis leagues to pilates or yoga. Many hire private instructors to conduct classes at modest prices. Madison CT has a great recreation department with dozens of programs – it also administers the towns beaches, gym, and athletic fields.

Aquatic Center in Blacksburg

8. Indoor swimming pool (or heated outside pool in warmer climates). Swimming is a great exercise that doesn’t stress your joints. We think towns that offer pools with year round access offer a significant plus for retired people. Blacksburg (VA) has a wonderful Aquatic Center open to the public year round.
9. Active volunteer groups. Different organizations like the Chamber of Commerce might put on fairs and festivals. Towns with active volunteer groups put on plays or concerts, while others do good in the community while they provide interesting opportunities for volunteers.
10. Plenty of parks and walking trails. In some towns there is special exercise equipment installed in the parks and along the trails that make it easier to stay in shape. Towns in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Oregon do a great job at this.

Note about this list. We were thinking about towns when we developed this list. Not many towns or cities will have everything on this list, although quite a few will have most of them. When it comes to active and 55+ communities, even fewer will have them. So, prioritizing what is important to you. Perhaps there is a nearby city that can provide these services.

What can you do?
In many cities and towns there are groups of involved citizens who are lobbying their local governments to work harder for seniors, not just for the normal targets like improving the schools or providing more athletic fields.

For further reading
Best Cities for Successful Aging.
These States Want You to Retire There
Retirees Reshaping Where Americans Live

Comments? What are you looking for in your retirement town? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on April 10th, 2018


  1. Great article! Where is a listing of communities that have these amenities?

    by Ron — April 11, 2018

  2. Totally agree with the article but it feels overwhelming to figure what communities have this on one’s own. Any chance a listing for NE or FL exists?

    by Carol — April 11, 2018

  3. Great comments. It is overwhelming to try to find towns and cities with all these amenities. So what we intend to do is twofold: 1) Make sure as we add and revise our reviews of communities that we include these amenities if they exist. And 2) work on a list of towns that do deliver on all or most of them. We will publish that in the next few months.

    by Admin — April 11, 2018

  4. Fort Myers does not have a library system. It is part of the Lee County Library system. Yes, there is a library in Fort Myers, but it is a Lee County Library.

    by Linda — April 11, 2018

  5. Could you be more specific on those places with these qualities, please?

    by Carol — April 11, 2018

  6. One thing that’s on my list and was not on yours is Reliable Internet Service preferably FIOS. We do our banking on- line and are frequently checking our investments plus we like to do our research on-line and Skype with the grandkids. We came from an area that had FIOS, but our present locale does not. What Verizon calls “high-speed” isn’t nor is it reliable and that’s very frustrating.

    by Jay Smith — April 11, 2018

  7. We have all the requirements. Not to meantion very mild traffic. It’s a lovely area but not in the sunbelt. Which is fine with us. We can leave for a couple months and return to our little paradise. I notice you focus on extremely hot temp. locations. I don’t know how older people handle that. It saps my energy.

    by Kate — April 11, 2018

  8. Not being a driver, some form of public transportation is a must for me. Good medical facilities is another. An opportunity to socialize is my third. I am alone but don’t want to be lonely.

    by Dale R Vani — April 11, 2018

  9. Kate…..where do you live?

    by Peggy — April 11, 2018

  10. Active adult communities often provide all of these items. Ours has 5 pools, 3 libraries, learning seminars, classes, walking trails, miles of bike paths, support for transportation thru senior village organization. Dozens of clubs. Saddlebrooke AZ.

    by Sara — April 11, 2018

  11. Sara, Saddlebrooke, AZ looks very attractive. I just browsed the website and am favorably impressed. No mention of HOA dues, though, and with all those wonderful amenities, it must be significant. Would you mind giving a ballpark figure of HOA dues there? The conundrum of looking at retirement areas and homes is that we want an area that has activities but the flip side is the HOA dues that can make it too expensive to live there. I like all the social features of that community, too.

    by Pam — April 12, 2018

  12. All good, but I would add good emergency services. If I need an ambulance, I want to know I can get assistance and get to a hospital quickly. My husband and I are actively looking for our next home and all these are factoring in our decision.

    by Pat — April 13, 2018

  13. Pam, not sure if this is up to date but this is what I found:

    by Louise — April 13, 2018

  14. Louise, thank you for that link. That was good general information about the health of an hoa. In the mean time I emailed someone there at Saddlebrooke and just received documents he sent. Haven’t read them yet but did notice one is the HOA financial statement. Now I just wonder about the summer heat!

    by Pam — April 13, 2018

  15. Pam,

    I look into the financial health of any HOA I am considering. I have lived here in Washington, DC in a Co-op for 21 years and I served on every committee here that serves the Board. I think the financial health and good reserves are key to a good HOA. Also look at how much their yearly increases are and what they include, look at how much of the increase goes into the reserve fund and what at upcoming projects of the community that might affect your fees. Also do they currently or have they ever needed to have a special assessment because they did not have the funds for a project or maintenance. (This should be a RED flag.) A special assessment can really add to your monthly HOA bill. Make sure you are happy with the way things are run, the way the property is maintained and that you understand completely what the fees cover and do not cover. Does the community also carry good liability insurance for the grounds and common areas. One last thing, what is the percentage of owners to renters…this can be very important. Our Co-op does not permit renting–only if a person is based overseas with the state department can a unit be rented and then the lease must be vetted by the Board every six months with the lease no longer than one year. This has kept our property values higher than communities that are condos that rent to the university students.

    by Jennifer — April 14, 2018

  16. Folks, although these Saddlebrook and HOA posts are really interesting, we are veering away from the original topic – what your retirement town needs to deliver. We have a lot to offer on HOAs in other posts, notably , which has links to even more articles. Check them out.

    by Admin — April 14, 2018

  17. Jay Smith,. ( See a possible alternative near the end of this post.) It is seldom mentioned here but to many reliable, high speed internet is critical. Those of us who worked in a tech sector or who simply spent much of the past 40 years relying on high speed telecommunications are often highly dependent on our internet service for not only email but shopping, planning, research, commodity and services reviews, news, sports, entertainment (music, TV, movies, games, etc), phone and education. It is our primary interface with the world. Almost hidden in this is the “new” world of “streaming”. Not obvious to most except the more “bleeding edge” types is that almost all music and video service is beginning to migrate to streaming service which demands high internet speed. While to some it is a new nicety, our video (TV, movie, music) has shifted to HD (and 4K) with extremely higher speed requirements. Services such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, etc are becoming more and more dependent on very high speeds.

    As you know, the negative impact of slow internet is extreme and very restricting. The lack of high internet speed (with no real future hope) is the major driver pushing us to move from our home of 25 years. (Techno speak on) Our base DSL speed is less than 3Mbps with no hope for improvement. At high cost (more than $100/month), I add Verizon LTE Internet Installed for @10Mbps speed but with a severe cap. Our true family (wife and myself) need is for at least 100Mbps service. (As you said — FIOS or 5G.)

    Most retirement community and other population centers can today provide this level of service. But if true high speed internet is a necessity to you, be sure to verify in advance. Rural and out lying areas often don’t provide such service and may not for upwards of five years without excessive costs. For some, that could be too late.

    by RichPB — April 14, 2018

  18. Thanks RichPB. To get the kind of internet service we want we figure we’ll have to live near a medium to large city or college.

    by Jay Smith — April 18, 2018

  19. This great list came in from our friend Nancy:
    Here is my check list for my ideal location:

    Ability to give shape to some days – temp jobs
    Access to outdoors/ see the sky
    Easy exercise
    Value for money & space to spread out – housing
    Not crowded – population
    Food and farmers markets
    People I like/love
    Access to best medical resources
    Moderate weather changes – still some seasonality
    Easy to get to – long distance transport

    by Admin — April 18, 2018

  20. From Jennifer:
    Joanne C, I believe that walkability is key. I am able to walk to restaurants within three to four blocks of my home. As I get older, I think that it will be more important NOT to be tied to a car to have to get from point A to point B. I would love to be near gorgeous mountains and beaches, but here in NW Washington, DC I have a lot of the benefits of freedom from a car and all it entails. We also have Lyft, Uber, Zipcar, Cars2go, metro bus and rail. Airports and Amtrak are easily accessible as well via all of the above. Transportation will be very important as we age. At age 70 in DC one must get a physicians OK in order to get a driver’s license. We also have virtual villages all over the city to assist the elderly for a yearly fee. Volunteersin the village will take those who call(within their given virtual village) to the doctor, grocery shopping, etc. This is why I hesitate to leave this high cost area. I do not want to have to drive all the time wherever I end up. I could live cheaply elsewhere, but I would have to give up a lot of convenience. Also groceries and chef prepared food can be delivered to my home for free or a very low fee.

    by Admin — April 23, 2018

  21. Great start to those intangibles to be aware. Each of us has different abilities, resources and health conditions. Some things on this list I just skipped by but others have been mistakenly forgotten to consider.

    Reading the comments has complimented the article. I look forward to seeing more personal ideas on your ideal amenities! -AJ

    by AJ — May 9, 2018

  22. These comments were moved from a different Blog for a better fit:

    I live in NW DC–where did you retire to? DC is a very expensive city–no doubt about it. I do live close enough to things to be able to give up my car one day–which is helpful. I have lived in my apartment. which I own in a co-op, for 22 years. I have found there are many things to consider before relocating to a cheaper area of the country, like moving expenses for one. My retirement dollars have to go a long way and the cheaper cost of living elsewhere may require me to be tied to a car. I hope to work part-time for a while as I have to be busy. Even the free time I have when not working is structured for a few hours each day. I have my health insurance figured out–I joined a healthcare co-op and will use them as my secondary once I qualify for Medicare. I was a surgery nurse and so I would never submit easily to a surgery–many of them are unnecessary. If you go to a surgeon, you will be a sure candidate for surgery. As are others here, I am still looking for my utopia.

    by Jennifer — September 21, 2018
    In responding to Jennifer–I lived in Ashburn VA for 3 years after retiring, doing the usual “group roommates in a townhouse” lifestyle so prevalent in Northern Va. I am now in Knoxville, TN, where I have an apartment for less than the cost of the Nova townhouse room rental. I have found that I can get everything I liked and had in Northern Virginia down here, but of course because Wegmans won’t expand into this mid-south area, if one is an organic/healthy food fan, we have to pay quite a bit more here than at Wegman’s to get that level of organic quality. The run-of-the-mill food that you find generally in grocery stores here in Knoxville is much cheaper here but the producers are different than Wegmans and varied, and once I found through trial and error the ones producing the higher quality foods, , I can find what I like and add them to my weekly list.
    I am planning to stay in Knoxville for awhile until I get all my health issues completed. I spent a lifetime never going to doctors and dentists, so it has all come home to roost now, so I need to be in a city with good available medical options for the time being. Knoxville has its own transportation systems and there are lots of available options for elderly to get to appointments, I have a retired friend who no longer drives and takes the buses everywhere he goes in the city. I still have my car for the places I like to go are beyond the bus transportation areas.
    The best place for everyone is the place where each can creatively “make life happen to suit their needs” for the time they want to be there. Once I finish up on the health care stuff with dental and eyes, I will consider getting a condo here or in Cookeville, TN. It all depends on what happens in the future.

    by Admin — September 22, 2018

  23. To RichPB:
    I spent a load of research time before I decided where to move to when I retired, as high speed internet was the main focus. I originally wanted to live somewhere in the country in the lower SW areas of Virginia, but my bank had pulled out of all the rural areas south of Charlottesville VA and internet if available at all might be 5 mbps dial-up when it was working in the rural mountain areas.
    The best place for internet speeds at a reasonable price turned out to be a big surprise–Chattanooga has superfast publically-ownded internet with $58.00/month for 100 mbps and offers it to low income households fr $27.00/month.
    EPB, the city-owned power utility agency that runs its own fibre network throughout the Chattanooga city area and offers higher speeds service than its competitors in the private sector can do. Of course, this was slipped past the Tennessee regulators before they could bed with the private networks like Comcast and TWC and Verizon, who put up a big stink against more cities doing the same thing. I understanad this forward-looking city has enjoyed much new growth as a result of its wise decision. People and industries needing high internet speeds are moving there. For around $70.00/month people there can enjoy ultra-high speed fibre connections at 1 gigabit per second.

    I am currently in Knoxville, TN, and have 60 mbps., from Comcast, which has been more than sufficient for my needs on line so far, for %).00/mo.

    by KEM — September 22, 2018

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