Best Places To Grow Old

These 10 counties offer retirees comfort and opportunity, but also financial peace of mind.

Ed Coghlan’s story is the same as so many others: Over the last year, the North Hills, Calif., owner of a corporate communications firm has seen his retirement accounts dwindle from the low seven figures to the mid-six figures. While Coghlan, 59, isn’t destitute, that decrease does mean that he’ll have to work longer than he expected.

“I planned on retiring at 65,” he says. “Now I expect to be working until my 70s.”

Coghlan’s not alone. The baby boomers–defined by the Census as those born between 1946 and 1964, and the largest and richest generation of Americans to date–have seen their savings depleted by 20%, or a total of $2 trillion during the current recession, according to Conemarra Partners, a New York-based consulting company. That means postponed retirement for many of them or, in some cases, settling down in spots far away from the tried-and-true options, such as Florida and Arizona.

In Depth: Best Places To Grow Old

Why aren’t these sunny spots looking as sweet these days? It’s a combination of the costs and the particular lifestyle retirees seek. Some retirees are now opting to wind down in college and commuter towns, or places where they have spent significant amounts of time in the past, according to Robert G. Kramer, president of the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC), a market research firm in Annapolis, Md. These include Westchester, N.Y., and Lancaster, Pa.

Similarly, in Montgomery County, Pa., a commuter suburb on Philadelphia’s affluent mainline, 14.9% of the overall population–778,048–is 65 and over. While it’s not cheap to live here–average property tax on a home is $3,614 per year, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C.–it’s likely that seniors find comfort in the fact that Montgomery County is close to a major metropolis. It’s also close to prestigious colleges such as Haverford, not to mention the parks and recreation that come with such proximity.

Nassau County on New York’s Long Island possesses similar qualities as Montgomery, and ranks second on our list of the best places to retire. However, traditional, warm-climate options such as Pima County, Ariz., Palm Beach County, Fla., and Honolulu County, Hawaii, remain high on the list because they’re affordable.

Behind the Numbers
To determine which U.S. counties are the best places to grow old, we used several data points, three determined by the U.S. Census Bureau: the percentage of those aged 65 and over in counties with a total population of 500,000, median monthly housing costs and median income of those 65 and over in each of these counties. To get a sense of overall economic health, we used the most up-to-date unemployment-rate data for each county, provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, with data provided by New York market research firm Onboard Informatics, we determined the number of hospitals, clinics and elder care facilities per 10,000 people in each county. Click here for a complete explanation of the methodology.

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