Updated July, 2014 — So far 7 U.S. states have embarked on programs to identify certified retirement communities as part of their economic development plans. This article will provide a list of the certified retirement communities in those states.These states are all in the south – Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. In total over 85 communities have been certified (in West Virginia they are called “designated”, in Tennessee the communities are selected as part of a pilot program). Louisiana’s program appears to be inactive. More communities are being added all the time.
How successful are these programs?
The idea behind these programs seems sound. Set minimum standards that communities have to follow to make sure they are attractive to active adults in retirement, then generate publicity to steer retirees (and their fat wallets) to those towns. Typical standards require affordable housing, recreational opportunities, medical facilities, and transportation. Most of the states offering these programs are already low-tax states, an obvious attraction for many retirees. It is difficult to tell how successful these programs have been so far. What is easy to say is that some states seem to be doing a better job of marketing their programs than others. On some state retirement websites, for example, it is hard if not impossible to find a list of the certified communities for that state. The websites are not always available, not always up to date, and the links change without warning.
Critics of certified retirement programs warn that retirees should exercise caution when evaluating claims from certified retirement communities. Paraphrasing what one critic said in an AP article, just because the town welcomes people over 55 doesn’t mean you should move there. Sometimes medical facilities or other amenities like senior centers haven’t been built.
The Lists by State:
Kentucky Certified Retirement Communities:
Kentucky has identified 8 certified retirement communities. Their website no longer seems to work, so the program might be inactive.
Louisiana Certified Retirement Communities
The name of the program was “Redefine Life, but its website is no longer working. Retire in Louisiana. Certified Retirement Community”. The program recognized places in Louisiana that the state substantiates as premier locations for retirees aged 55 and older. 12 communities or areas were chosen as certified retirement communities. Louisiana’s website is not always available. Louisiana’s certified communities include:
– Lake Charles
– Jefferson Parish
– Landry Parish
– Natchitoches Parish
– I 12 District (Southeast District comprising St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes)
Mississippi Certified Retirement Communities
This state has certified a long list of towns – there are 21 of them. Unfortunately Mississippi’s website does not seem to be active any longer. The program was run by the Dept. for Aging and Independent Living Retirement Communities:
– Mississippi Gulf Coast
– West Point
Texas Certified Retirement Communities
The Lone Star State currently has 42 certified retirement communities and regularly adds more. In our opinion Texas has done the best job with this program. Like several other states, their website is easy to use. But what sets them apart is the job the certified communities have done with their certification – they have sent out press releases, promoted their sites in online communities like Topretirements.com, and advertised their certifications on their in-house media outlets. Here are some of the certified towns/counties:
– De Kalb
– Gun Barrel City
– Panola County
– San Augustine
– Shelby County
West Virginia Designated Retirement Communities:
Six West Virginia communities have undergone an application process that ensures the community provides the resources and amenities required to be considered as a Designated Retirement Community. They are:
– Lewis County
– Summers County
– Nicholas County
North Carolina. North Carolina’s certified retirement program appears to be just getting started. Lumberton is the first city to be certified. The town of Mount Airy is considering applying for that status.