March 27, 2017 — The authors of the Milken Report on Successful Aging have identified the best places in the country to retire for successful aging. In fact they have two different lists – larger Metros and smaller Metros (we will focus on the smaller Metros). Their selection process is the most rigorous of any we know of; it actually has 83 different criteria including access to good healthcare, transportation, security, employment and recreation opportunities, livability, community engagement, and livability.
Most boomers live in Metropolitan areas, and plan to stay there
The authors of the report refer to this as the “anti-retirement” list of best places. They think the idea of retiring to a gated 55+ community in Florida is over, instead they prefer to focus on towns where baby boomers can stay active, engaged, and healthy. Their report notes that most Americans over 65 live in Metropolitan areas, and some 90% of boomers are not interested in moving in retirement (Topretirements Members are much more focused on moving than the population at large). Their focus on finding Metropolitan areas that are suitable for retirement ended up with all 10 of their small Metro cities being located in cold climates. In our opinion that focus misses another important retirement factor: a lot of boomers are tired of cold weather and dreary winters – they would rather be outside in a warm winter climate.
The 10 Best Small Metros for retirement – but don’t give away your winter clothes!
Cold climates or not, the Milken Report’s list, all college towns, has some top notch places to retire. Seven of them are located in the Midwest.
1. Iowa City, Iowa. Home to the University of Iowa and its famous writing programs, this college town has plenty of culture to offer.The city ranked 1 for healthcare in the Milken Report and #14 for transportation convenience, and also has a low unemployment rate for its older citizens.
2. Manhattan, Kansas made the top 10 for Education and Healthcare. Kansas State University adds a lot to the city. Military retirees will like the proximity of Fort Riley and its military facilities. The report mentions that volunteerism and opportunities for engagement are plentiful in Manhattan.
3. Ames, Iowa. Great health care, education, and employment opportunities are among the top advantages for boomers who retire in Ames. Iowa State University has a big and vital presence in town.
Midwest friendliness and neighborhood spirit are other pluses that make it appealing.
4. Columbia, Missouri is nicknamed “College Town” or “The Athens of Missouri” because it has so many colleges in one town. There is a plethora of restaurants, bars, live music, indie films, book stores, art galleries, and loft apartments near the University of Missouri campus.
5. Sioux Falls, South Dakota makes all kinds of “best places” lists for many good reasons. The economy is strong (Citibank has a huge presence), there is no income tax, and it has a lovely setting. The city has many lovely parks including Falls Park on the city’s namesake waterfalls on the Big Sioux River.
6. Ann Arbor, Michigan. The University of Michigan calls Ann Arbor home. The city is named for its many groves of trees (and supposedly the founders’ wives were named Ann). There are music stores, sidewalk cafes, bars, bookstores, and shops. Sports fans can cheer the Big 10 sports events held here. Strong zoning keeps it nice.
7. Ithaca, New York is the rare New York State city that makes a best places to retire list. The college in this University town is Cornell. The students and the businesses catering to them give the city a lively aura. Restaurants like the Moosewood vegetarian restaurant are a good example. Cornell’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, which was designed by architect I.M. Pei.
8. Lawrence, Kansas is the second city in the Sunflower State to make this top 10 list (Iowa also had two). The University of Kansas has a very pretty campus and is a major influence on the town. There is also the Haskell Indian Nations University, the North vs. South Music Festival, La Prima Tazza is one of Lawrence’s many unique coffee shops, plus many independent book stores. Cost of housing is below the national median.
9. Logan, Utah. This city of 60,000 is 90 miles north of Salt Lake City. It is drawing retirees and other new residents because of its religious diversity and tolerance. It has low unemployment rates and is known as one of the America’s safest cities (crime is almost non-existent). Utah State University makes it a college town.
10. Fairbanks, Alaska made the Milken list because of it cultural amenities, cultural spirit, and social environment. The climate is not exactly sunbelt, but the summers are glorious.
Comments: What do you think about the 10 towns on this list? Would they be on yours. How do you feel about their selection criteria – do they work for you or does climate trump a lot of other things.
For further reading:
the complete Milken Institute Report on Successful Aging