08/01/2012 07:37 am ET Updated Aug 01, 2012

Retirement Cities: Study Names The Best Places To Age In America

Move over, Florida. Choosing where to grow old seems to be an increasingly complex decision, and the Milken Institute, an economic think tank, has given prospective retirees a few more things to think about, with a study released on Tuesday ranking the top U.S. cities for growing old.

In crafting its list of "Best Cities for Successful Aging," the Institute consulted survey results, demographers, and various experts in the aging field in compiling a list of 78 factors that contribute to what it calls "successful aging," or an active and productive old age. These range from cost of living and crime rate to more age-specific criteria such as a city's mean public transport fare. "What I would hope is that [prospective retirees] would look at the various indicators, from health to employment opportunities to education, and think about the factors that are most important to them," said study co-author Ross DeVol.

In addition to the overall rankings, the Institute ranked cities based on their appeal to people in the 65-to-79 demographic and people over 80, respectively, in recognition that "young aging Americans" may prioritize opportunities to continue working, for example.

Readers may be surprised to note that New York City and Washington D.C., two of the most expensive places in the nation to call home, were both ranked highly. "There are trade-offs," DeVol acknowledged. "In some cases there will be financial contraints, but they’re offset in terms of having access to the different amenities." Indeed, he suggests that bearing in mind the entire spectrum of quality-of-life concerns, "cost may not be as important as many people might think."

But perhaps the larger point is that it's not just the post 50s themselves who need to start turning an eye toward the unique concerns of age. In conducting its study, the Institute hopes to "raise awareness of the importance to communities of providing resources to seniors," DeVol said -- and even "create a little sense of competition" among towns and cities in the race to become age-friendly.

Michael Hodin, executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who served as an advisor to the research team, puts it more strongly: According to him, tapping into the economic potential of people over 50 will be imperative to any city that hopes to stay competitive into the coming decades. "The cities that are age-friendly will be 'the winners,'" he said.

Check out the gallery below for the 10 large and small cities identified by the Milken Institute as the best places to age.

The Best U.S. Cities (Large And Small) For Successful Aging


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