In the U.S., and in the world, population is aging at an unprecedented pace. As nearly 80 million boomers head into retirement, demographers project that one in five Americans will be 65 or over by 2030, (that's only 11 years away) according to the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging.
The days of retiring to the Sun Belt may be winding down, as the majority of this aging population wants to stay in their current home and community as they grow older, according to AARP.
How these communities adapt is a matter of increasing concern. Will they have adequate healthcare, transportation, and affordable housing for older people? Are there jobs for people who want to work in retirement?
The Milken Institute's report on the Best Cities for Successful Aging examined 381 metro areas in the U.S., evaluating them for their age-friendliness in these areas: livability, healthcare, wellness, financial, education, transportation and convenience, employment, living arrangements, and community engagement.
Mayors across the country are trying to embrace a vision of population aging in which residents of all ages contribute to the vitality and productivity of their communities. As communities across the U.S. try to adapt, some are becoming more age-friendly than others. Based on the Milken Institute's report, these are the 15 best large cities to grow old, and retire happy and healthy, followed by the 15 best small cities:
1. Provo-Orem, Utah
- Percent of population over 65: 6.88%
- Population over 65: 37,857
- Total population: 550,230
Provo, the No. 1 large metro, offers a home for older adults amid a youthful, family-oriented population, ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, including five national parks, and an active, healthy culture with low drinking and smoking rates.
2. Madison, Wis.
- Percent of population over 65: 11.89%
- Population over 65: 73,832
- Total population: 620,740
Madison offers strong medical services and an educated, healthy population, as well as an abundance of recreational, entertainment and community engagement activities.
Photo: youngryand / Shutterstock
3. Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.
- Percent of population over 65: 12.21%
- Population over 65: 64,145
- Total population: 525,431
There are some of the nation's best hospitals here, many civic and religious organizations and a culture of volunteerism.
Photo: Sharkshock / Shutterstock
4. Salt Lake City
- Percent of population over 65: 9.01%
- Population over 65: 101,289
- Total population: 1.12 million
Salt Lake has a high rate of older volunteers, strong 65-plus employment levels, and many cultural and recreational amenities.
5. Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa
- Percent of population over 65: 11.63%
- Population over 65: 68,556
- Total population: 589,443
Here residents will find a strong business environment, good health services, and a relatively low cost of living.
Photo: Nagel Photography / Shutterstock
6. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
- Percent of population over 65: 8.77%
- Population over 65: 160,879
- Total population: 1.83 million
Hip and youthful, Austin-Round Rock offers enjoyable lifestyles for older residents.
Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock
7. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb./Iowa
- Percent of population over 65: 11.61%
- Population over 65: 102,803
- Total population: 885,471
Affordability, quality healthcare, recreational amenities, and employment opportunities mark this area as a top place for an older, educated population.
Photo:Stephanie Le / Shutterstock
8. Jackson, Miss.
- Percent of population over 65: 11.90%
- Population over 65: 68,603
- Total population: 576,406
Jackson offers an affordable cost of living and a low tax burden, many social and civic engagement options, and a large healthcare sector.
9. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass./N.H.
- Percent of population over 65: 13.70%
- Population over 65: 635,962
- Total population: 4.64 million
Despite the costly housing, the Boston area is attractive for its top universities, rich history, high-quality hospitals, walkable neighborhoods, well-planned transit, and low crime rates.
Photo: Kwanbenz / Shutterstock
10. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.
- Percent of population over 65: 13.31%
- Population over 65: 592,693
- Total population: 4.5 million
Strong transit and cultural and educational offerings, diverse resources for older adults make this a top region for those who can afford it. But income inequality is high and many people commute long distances to work.
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11. New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y./N.J./Pa.
- Percent of population over 65: 13.58%
- Population over 65: 2,694,942
- Total population: 19.8 million
Unbeatable transit and cultural experiences, access to healthcare, convenience and plenty of award-winning age-friendly initiatives might be enough to counter the high price tag of living here.
Photo: Clari Massimiliano / Shutterstock
12. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.
- Percent of population over 65: 10.87%
- Population over 65: 287,731
- Total population: 2.6 million
Denver's active population makes it No. 1 for physical activity. It offers a strong economy, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and community engagement opportunities for older adults.
13. Toledo, Ohio
- Percent of population over 65: 13.75%
- Population over 65: 83,681
- Total population: 608,481
Toledo offers affordable living, a strong community feel, and engagement options for older residents, but a less active population.
14. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn./Wis.
- Percent of population over 65: 11.52%
- Population over 65: 394,297
- Total population: 3.4 million
Minneapolis-St. Paul boasts recreational, arts, religious, and civic organizations, an expanding healthcare system and a strong economy supporting its older population.
15. Springfield, Mass.
- Percent of population over 65: 14.46%
- Population over 65: 90,481
- Total population: 625,788
Springfield has a culture of learning and walkable communities, but health care and living arrangements could be improved. Pictured is the Dr. Seuss Memorial in Springfield.
Photo: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock
Here are the top 15 small metros from the Milken report:
1. Iowa City, Iowa
- Percent of population over 65: 10.44%
- Population over 65: 16,529
- Total population: 158,370
Iowa City has top-notch healthcare and ample funding to help older adults live independently.
2. Manhattan, Kan.
- Percent of population over 65: 9.21%
- Population over 65: 8,980
- Total population: 97,520
Unlike its New York namesake, this town in northeast Kansas is affordable and has a college-town feel.
3. Ames, Iowa
- Percent of population over 65: 10.32%
- Population over 65: 9,460
- Total population: 91,630
Though it has a relatively high cost of living, the home of Iowa State University offers diverse cultural amenities, and is an all-around age-friendly place.
Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock
4. Columbia, Mo.
- Percent of population over 65: 9.73%
- Population over 65: 16,397
- Total population: 168,530
Columbia has a vibrant college scene, affordable long-term care and ample transit funding for older people.
5. Sioux Falls, S.D.
- Percent of population over 65: 11.57%
- Population over 65: 27,503
- Total population: 237,649
Sioux Falls leads in infrastructure and services, including medical services, for older adults.
6. Ann Arbor
- Percent of population over 65: 11.05%
- Population over 65: 38,797
- Total population: 351,146
Retirees here can enjoy numerous cultural and recreational amenities, public transit and walkability, but cost of living is somewhat high.
Photo: Richard Westlund / Shutterstock
7. Ithaca, N.Y.
- Percent of population over 65: 11.50%
- Population over 65: 11,809
- Total population: 102,713
This is another college town with an educated population and walkable communities, but a high cost of living.
8. Lawrence, Kan.
- Percent of population over 65: 9.65%
- Population over 65: 10,914
- Total population: 113,043
This town in eastern Kansas is one with the lowest unemployment among older adults. Home to the University of Kansas, it has a highly educated populace and strong enthusiasm for volunteerism among older adults.
9. Logan, Utah/Idaho
- Percent of population over 65: 8.66%
- Population over 65: 11,135
- Total population: 128,534
Logan is appealing for its low crime rates, short commutes, many libraries, recreational opportunities and older volunteers.
10. Fairbanks, Alaska
- Percent of population over 65: 7.15%
- Population over 65: 7,162
- Total population: 100,141
Fairbanks leads the nation in community engagement, with cultural amenities and social organizations offering a warm vibe in a chilly climate.
11. Boulder, Colo.
- Percent of population over 65: 11.07%
- Population over 65: 33,802
- Total population: 305,297
Boulder boasts walkable neighborhoods, tech-savvy older adults, a highly educated older population and many cultural amenities.
Photo: randy andy / Shutterstock
12. Champaign-Urbana, Ill.
- Percent of population over 65: 11.55%
- Population over 65: 27,019
- Total population: 233,943
The area offers strong health services targeting older adults, as well as University of Illinois educational opportunities.
Photo: Leigh Trail / Shutterstock
13. Gainesville, Fla.
- Percent of population over 65: 11.93%
- Population over 65: 32,059
- Total population: 268,660
Retirees here can benefit from a quality healthcare system, as well as good weather and air quality. There is a widely used public transit system.
14. Fargo, N.D./Minn.
- Percent of population over 65: 10.83%
- Population over 65: 23,486
- Total population: 216,785
Quality medical care, a stable economy, low unemployment and high income growth help make Fargo a top place for retirees, despite its cold climate. Residents enjoy many cultural amenities and possess a philanthropic spirit.
Photo: David Harmantas / Shutterstock
15. Midland, Texas
- Percent of population over 65: 10.62%
- Population over 65: 16,126
- Total population: 151,809
Residents here enjoy a low cost of living and good access to cultural amenities, but a middling healthcare system, and poor transportation services, Brookings says.