According to the World Health Organization, a healthy city is one:
…that is continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and in developing to their maximum potential.
Source: World Health Organization, Health Promotion Glossary, 1998.
To rank the 60 largest U.S. metropolitan areas in terms of health and suitability for middle-income retirees (those we define as having an annual household income between $25,000 and $100,000 and investible assets of less than $1 million), we looked at two broad factors:
To determine how healthy a city is, we examined data in eight categories that are key to the overall health of an area and its residents: healthcare, the economy, social, wellness, activities, the environment, transportation and crime. Categories that have a greater impact on overall health were more heavily weighted in determining a city’s total score and ranking.
- Economy & Affordability
To determine an area’s affordability for middle-income retirees, we paid special attention to three specific metrics: cost-of-living index, median housing price and median rental price. (Cost-of-living index takes into consideration a city’s costs for housing, transportation, utilities, healthcare and miscellaneous goods and services.) Cities that ranked in the top 15% most expensive for those three metrics were disqualified from consideration for our final top ten Best Cities list. These cities still appear in the rankings of the 60 biggest metro areas and individual categories.
* Revised on 8/12/2015 for clarity.
Widespread availability of physicians specializing in geriatric issues—such as cardiology and oncology—is critical to supporting a healthy retiree population. This criteria category also examines the number of physicians and hospitals per capita, hospital ratings based on patient reviews and the affordability of home healthcare.
Economy & Affordability
This category presents a snapshot of the region’s economic health and affordability for retirees, placing special emphasis on quality of life issues, such as overall cost of living and housing prices. The study also takes into account sales tax, the local unemployment rate and any taxes on Social Security or pension income.
Thriving social health depends on numerous factors, from the existence of a sizeable peer group to sufficient emotional support. This category considers the percentage of the overall population in the Baby Boomer generation (i.e., ages 51 to 69), seniors’ social and emotional well-being and satisfaction with life and the number of four-year colleges, libraries and civic and volunteer opportunities in the area.
Separate from healthcare, the wellness category focuses on the actual physical health of an area’s residents, in particular issues of importance to retirees: life expectancy; smoking, obesity and depression rates; and mortality from cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.