Best Places to Age in Grace

Athens, Georgia - Sean Pavone - Retirement destination options

Tips for Selecting a Retirement Destination.

There are a number of things we must consider when planning for our retirement. Among the most important considerations is our debt obligations, whether we have saved enough to retire comfortably and where we intend to live out our golden years.

While many seniors and boomers downsize in retirement, they tend to focus on the design of the home or the amenities of a retirement community, rather than the location. Failing to consider the location in which you plan to spend your retirement years can end up costing you more in your retirement savings than you had anticipated spending.

Finding a senior-friendly city and state is a crucial component to retirement. Not only will it mean an easier time finding the services you need, but it also will guarantee that your retirement savings will stretch further. There are a number of cost-effective cities, including some where you can live for as little as $100 per day.

Newspapers, magazines and online resources that focus on retirees have all taken a stab at compiling lists of the best places for seniors and boomers to retire. We’ve examined many of those reports, and have compiled our list of the top places for seniors to age in grace.

Location #1 – Athens, Georgia

Located 70 miles east of Atlanta, this southern city is known for its frugal cost of living, which is tagged at 8 percent below the U.S. national average. Athens ranks extremely high on the Milken Institute’s list of best cities for successful aging. The institute used 83 indicators it obtained from publicly-available data on criteria that experts commonly cite as important to environments considered to be age-friendly. That criteria includes general livability, community engagement, living arrangements, employment, transportation, healthcare and financial security.

In addition to its impressive cost of living, Athens has a fairly favorable walkability score of 43. Cities with scores in that range generally provide access to some necessities within walking distance, which can be important for seniors who either do not want to drive, or who are no longer safe to drive due to physical or medical conditions. For things that require you to go farther than your legs are willing to carry you, access to public transportation is outstanding in Athens.

Other perks of Athens include:

  • Good air quality
  • Warm climate
  • Favorable tax climate for retirees, with no state income tax on Social Security earnings
  • No state estate or inheritance taxes


Location #2 – Grand Prairie, Texas

Grand Prairie, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, is home to roughly 185,000 residents who enjoy a cost of living that is 3 percent below the national average.

It boasts a low serious crime rate, above average access to doctors per capita and good air quality. The economy in Grand Prairie is stable, and it does not tax seniors on Social Security earnings or have an estate or inheritance tax.

One of the downsides to this city is its lack of walkability; however, it does have easily accessible public transportation. It also features free public transportation services for seniors age 60 and over who have a physical or mental disability.

If you enjoy volunteering and hope to spend more time doing so in your retirement years, Grand Prairie offers a variety of options for extending your time and talents to others in the community.

Location #3 – Green Valley, Arizona

What’s not to like about a city that boasts a cost of living that is 4 percent below the national average, provides excellent access to healthcare professionals per capita and a serious low crime rate?

It may be hot during the day, but the climate is cool in the evenings and winter is incredibly mild in Green Valley. The city also is a great option for seniors who do not wish to be taxed on their Social Security income or deal with an estate or inheritance tax. Green Valley received a middle-of-the-road ranking from the Milken Institute, mostly due to its lack of walkability and so-so economy.

Location #4 – Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

An expanding healthcare system and strong economy helped to rank the Minneapolis-St. Paul area at number 14 on the Milken Institute report.

Other pros of this metropolitan area for seniors and boomers include many opportunities for an active lifestyle, a sense of community and growing support of its older population. The area earns a walk score of 59, which is considered to be “somewhat walkable” by Walk Score. But where it lacks in walkability, it makes up for it in access to public transportation.

The area also boasts a low serious crime rate, lower poverty levels for older adults and access to a variety of recreational, arts, religious and civic activities to suit every interest.

One of the only cons about this area is the cold winters. If you dislike cold, snowy winters, this may not be the retirement destination for you.

Location #5 – Clemson, South Carolina

It’s hard to say what is more impressive about Clemson: the extremely low serious crime rate or the highly-walkable environment.

There are numerous pros about Clemson, including the fact that its cost of living rate is in line with the current national average. For those with health conditions, the air quality in Clemson ranks extremely well and the local bus transit system is 100 percent free for residents.

Other perks retirees will enjoy include state income tax breaks for pensions, zero state tax on Social Security benefits and the absence of either state or inheritance taxes.

Location #6 – Hillsboro, Oregon

An extremely low crime rate, low healthcare costs and access to an expansive list of public amenities helps to make this Pacific Northwest town a great place for seniors and boomers to retire.

While it may be extremely popular with younger families due to its quality schools and high-tech job offerings, it also is home to a growing number of retirees who also are enjoying the perks and benefits of a city with a robust economy.

The city has a walkability score of 45, which means some of its areas are ideal for foot traffic. The best neighborhoods to live in if walkability is a priority for you are Central Hillsboro, West Hillsboro and Sommerset West-Elmonica South.

Hillsboro is known for its vibrant arts scene, so if you enjoy the arts, it may be an added bonus to retiring in the area.

Where do you plan to spend your retirement years? Is location important to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

Mary Spann

Mary Spann

Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a real estate broker.
Mary Spann

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