D) A city with, well, everything a city has to offer
Spoiler: More and more baby boomers these days are flipping the script and opting for D. They’re ditching the stock notions of retirement from previous generations and seeking to spend their golden years in urban areas that have walkability, great restaurants, culture, good public transport, and decent prices—pretty much the same things that America’s other ginormous demo group, millennials, crave. The difference is, more boomers can foot the bill.
And as the largest generation ever to retire, at around 74 million strong—10,000 per day now hitting age 65—they’re already having ripple effects in the hottest neighborhoods of many U.S. cities. But where? Realtor.com® found the fastest-growing retirement cities where boomers are moving in. Get ready for the silver tsunami.
“Many boomers recognize that cities are a great place to age,” says Daniel Levine, founding director of the Avant-Guide Institute trends consultancy. “Everything is often within walking distance, from restaurants to hair salons. Add the plethora of cultural activities and aging in the city is sort of like one big retirement home.
“America’s cities are dynamic engines of change,” he adds, “and boomers are as much as part of that as younger generations.”
The top retirement cities have “higher than average access to exercise opportunities, healthy food options, and parks,” says Rodney Harrell, AARP’s director of Livability Thought Leadership. “They’re easier to walk in and have more transportation options.”
To zero in on the best urban retirement meccas, we started by calculating the counties with the greatest numbers of incoming folks aged 55 and up (calculated on a per capita basis), and those that have seen the biggest increases over the past two years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data. We selected the primary cities from those counties.*
The Northeast didn’t make the cut because it’s expensive and cold (some things, like the desire for warmer weather, never change). And you’ll see that many of our entries are cheaper alternatives to bigger, way pricier cities nearby. Can’t afford San Fransisco? (Hey, join the club.) Give Sacramento a look!
It’s not exactly a shocker that an Arizona city topped our list. The 286 days of sun a year and reasonable cost of living make the state a perennial favorite among retirees. But budget-conscious boomers craving the city life are bypassing costlier Phoenix, with a median $340,000 list price, for much more affordable Tucson.
The desert city offers a surplus of 65-plus retirement communities as well as a vibrant downtown, extensive bike paths, gorgeous hiking trails, and award-winning Sun Tran bus system. The city has access to more than—count ’em—40 golf courses. Tucson is also home to Banner-University Medical Center, one of U.S. News & World Report’s top 50 hospitals in the country.
The Sam Hughes neighborhood is particularly popular with retirees. The idyllic, tree-lined neighborhood offers plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, and parks within close walking distance—and it’s only a 10-minute trip from downtown. Single-family homes can range from $200,000 to $500,000, some boasting beautiful Southwestern architecture. This four-bed, three-bath home for $499,000 is in a particularly desirable location around the corner from Broadway Village, a shopping center with a natural grocer and a yoga studio.
Wait, what? St. Louis doesn’t exactly spring to mind as the primary place folks would contemplate for their forever homes. But the ultralow prices, thriving restaurant scene (landing fifth on Food & Wine magazine’s list of best food cities to visit in 2019), and cultural cornerstones such as the newly redone Gateway Arch Museum make it worthy of a second look. And it has a four-season climate that’s still far milder than its northern counterparts.
The big caveat: St. Louis ranks higher overall in crime than most U.S. urban areas. But there are plenty of safer parts of the city. In the highly desirable Boulevard Heights neighborhood, buyers can pick from a wide selection of brick bungalows and cottages on small, easy-to-maintain lots for under $300,000. Boomers love that the area feels secure and quasi-suburban while being a short bike ride away from hip restaurant life in neighborhoods such as Soulard and Southampton (or as locals call it, SoHa).
Yes, Florida’s killer combo of sun, shoreline, and beneficial tax laws make it a home run for aging boomers. And for those who don’t dig the Boca scene, Tampa is particularly appealing—catnip for die-hard urbanites who want to save a few bucks. The cost of living in the Gulf Coast city is way cheaper than Miami (with median home prices of $455,000), and there are plenty of cultural and recreational activities.
The place has gotten significantly more worldly over the years, with eateries serving up nearly every type of cuisine from American small plates to high-priced Japanese tasting menus, as well as great museums and fine places to kayak, bike, and walk. And of course, Tampa’s crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches are some of the nicest in the country.
Active adult communities on the outskirts of town are popular, but walkable South Tampa has become one of the area’s go-to locales for those who don’t want to spend all day riding in golf carts. Boomers have been seeking out condos like this one-bedroom in Bayshore Gardenswith views for $200,000.
There’s an influx in sales of properties here with in-law units—like this newly restored home with a separate one-bedroom, one-bathroom suite in the backyard—so boomers can live with their adult children as they age.
“Several of the large, new-construction home builders are creating floor plans specifically for that purpose,” says Philippa Main, a real estate agent with Future Home Realty.
Contrary to popular imagination, it’s not just hipper-than-thou millennials flocking to the Mile High City for its thriving job market, outdoorsy culture, and thriving brewery scene. Retirees who can afford the steep price tag are also heading to this mountain city seeking an active lifestyle of their own.
The most expensive city on our list features 300 days of sunshine a year, easy access to fly fishing spots, skiing, rock climbing, hiking trails, golf courses, and a trio of world-class pro sports franchises (go Broncs!).
Basically, you can do just about anything here.
“I was talking to a friend’s 69-year-old dad the other day: On one day in April, he went skiing in the morning, played nine holes of golf in the afternoon, and then saw a concert at Red Rocks,” says Aspen Gold Realty broker and owner Mike Christensen. “That’s how I want to retire.”
Boomers looking to settle into an active retirement community should look at Fairway Villas at Green Valley Ranch, a community with 220 single-family homes ranging in price from the mid-$300,000s to low $400,000s, he says.
Many soon-to-be retirees are also buying low-maintenance condos and townhomes (like this two-bedroom for $299,900) near their children and grandkids. The Indian Creek area is home to quiet streets and offers easy access to the High Line Canal, a 71-mile humanmade waterway that offers tree-covered trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding.
Boomers who want to be in the thick of things in the South are moving to the center of Atlanta—a cluster of neighborhoods known as Intown. Drab nickname aside, the area is popular with young professionals and retirees alike, both seeking brand-new condos and townhomes in up-and-coming areas.
Both of these neighborhoods are adjacent to the Beltline, a former railway that encircles the core of the city and connects 45 neighborhoods. While still in development, its 33 miles of multiuse trails currently include a light rail, hiking trails, parks, and public art. Many of the new properties along the Beltline are within walking distance of new breweries, restaurants, and shops.
Sin City might be synonymous with bachelorette weekends, buffets, and boozy pool parties, but bronzed 20-somethings aren’t the only ones swarming the Nevada escape. Boomers have good reasons to be running toward Las Vegas and leaving higher-cost markets like Los Angeles. The low costs helped the city land on realtor.com’s ranking of housing markets poised to take off in 2019. The lure of the casinos are an additional perk—or downside, depending on your perspective.
But what sets the city apart in the eyes of boomers (aside from the perpetual dry heat) is the abundance of all-inclusive, 55-plus communities within the city limits. Sun City Summerlin, the largest active-adult community in Nevada, sits right at the base of the Spring Mountain Range and has nearly 7,800 properties spread across 2,400 acres.
Prices for these single-family, ranch-style homes vary widely from $200,000 to $1 million. On the more affordable side of the spectrum, this comfortable two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a standalone tub and separate shower is listed for $325,000.
Seeking a neighborhood with a bit more age diversity? Check out Spring Valley on the southwest side of the city. It’s a safe, budget-friendly area with plenty of shopping centers and parks.
Albuquerque is one of the nation’s more easygoing major cities—and that’s exactly why it appeals to retirees. The relaxed vibe, dry climate, and breathtaking landscape appeal to folks who are looking to slow down but still stay active. The low prices don’t hurt, either.
Boomers who move to the Land of Enchantment are often outdoorsy types who love all of the options the high desert offers. The Sandia Mountains, directly to the east of the city, are great for hiking and biking. The Rio Grande flows right through town, offering kayakers easy access to the water and providing walkers and cyclist miles of trails that wind through its wooded banks.
Boomer buyers can find cute Spanish Pueblo–revival bungalows in the vibrant and walkable Nob Hill neighborhood, on a stretch of Route 66, around $300,000. It’s just a short drive away from the major hospitals in the city, including the University of New Mexico Hospital and Lovelace Medical Center. Nob Hill also boasts hookah bars, taquerias, music venues, and an indie movie theater.
Eight seasons of the show “Portlandia” gave the world a satirical, but oh-so-accurate glimpse at the type of people who live in this crunchy city of bearded hipsters, quirky entrepreneurs, feminist bookstore owners, and, yes, older couples navigating retired life.
“Portland is a top destination for boomers because of its proximity to a range of outdoor splendors, many walkable neighborhoods, thriving food and drink scene, public transportation, and relative affordability,” says Lance Marrs, a local real estate broker at Living Room Realty.
In neighborhoods such as the Pearl District in northwest Portland, the abundance of lofts and condos attracts boomers who want access to hip breweries, artisanal coffee shops, and plenty of parks. This one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo next to Jamison Square park is going for $475,000.
If you envision settling down in a single-family home, two-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalows in Alameda and Irvington go for around $600,000. It’s not exactly cheap, but these neighborhoods are within walking distance to restaurants and art galleries. And getting around town on public transportation is a breeze thanks to the Portland Streetcar service and Biketown, the city’s bike-share program.
California’s capital city has long been known as the state’s sleepier alternative to San Francisco. But young professionals—as well as aging boomers—are changing that. Drawn by the ultralow prices (nearly a quarter of the median $1.42 million list price in San Francisco), they’re transforming the city.
Many of the boomers are heading to trendy and historic East Sacramento, gravitating toward old Victorians and Craftsmen like this four-bedroom home with a newly renovated chef’s kitchen for $879,000. The neighborhood also offers new construction, including this Spanish-style three-bedroom.
“Young boomers tend to like older Victorians with ornate features and hardwood floors because they’ve been in a tract in the suburbs,” says Steph Baker, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
The walkable, tree-lined Midtown neighborhood, which is a popular destination for both art and bar crawls, also has an abundance of multifamily homes, including this modernized duplex with two two-bedroom units. Many savvy boomers are buying homes with secondary units, so they can either rent one out or help their kids get into the pricey real estate market.
Boomers in search of a city bursting with beautiful architecture, culture, Cajun grub, and Mardi Gras have been heading south to the Big Easy. While often thought of as a party town for millennials, the city’s world-class festivals (laissez les bons temps rouler!), warm weather, low cost of living, and dirt-cheap public transportation for seniors (40 cents one way, and free transfers) are particularly appealing for retirees.
“Most [boomers] are looking for low-maintenance properties, whether it’s a condo, townhouse, or house with a small amount of green space,” says Brett Richman, broker and owner of Nola Homes Co. “Many are looking for older homes that have been renovated with newer amenities.”