Florida may be a retirement mecca, but it doesn’t rank high in how it helps people age


Florida, long considered a retirement haven, may not be the golden-years paradise many think it is. In fact, if you want to age successfully, a just-released report suggests you move north and west.

No Florida big or small city made it to the top 10 “Best Cities for Successful Aging” report and index, a collaboration between the Milken Institute's Center for the Future of Aging and its Research Department. And the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area ranked an embarrassing 73 out of 100. Only two other Florida large metro areas ranked higher than South Florida. Jacksonville came in at 63 and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford at 69.

Provo-Utem, Utah, topped the large metro areas, while Iowa City, Iowa, was number 1 in the small metro areas.

The report looked at 381 U.S. metropolitan areas “to determine how well they serve the needs of the nation’s growing population of mature adults, enabling them to age productively, securely, and in optimal health.” The regions were evaluated on 83 indicators across nine categories that measured overall quality of life for older adults. These included such metrics as health care, financial security, living arrangements, employment, education, transportation and convenience, and community engagement.

The institute chose to examine metro areas because they’re home to the majority of seniors. More than 80 percent of Americans 65 and older live in cities and 90 percent of older adults say they want to stay in their communities as they age. And though “Best Cities for Successful Aging” is not intended as a guide for where older adults should retire, the report does identify the most livable metro areas.

“Cities are on the front lines of the largest demographic shift in history,” Paul Irving, chairman of the Center for the Future of Aging, said in a statement. “Lifespans are extending into eight, nine, and ten decades, and older adults increasingly are seeking lifelong engagement and purpose. They expect their cities and communities to support their changing needs.”

While the South Florida area ranking may be a disappointment for local aging advocates, most Florida cities did worse. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater came in at 84, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton at 91, Cape Coral-Fort Myers at 93, Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville at 94, Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach at 96, and Lakeland-Winter Haven at 99.

As for the 281 small metro areas analyzed by Milken, Gainesville came in 13, Tallahassee at 123, Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island at 184, Sebastian-Vero Beach at 197, Panama City at 218, Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin at 203, Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent at 224, Punta Gorda at 241, Port St. Lucie at 242, The Villages at 249, Ocala 272, Sebring at 273, and Homosassa Springs 276.

Which states did best on the rankings? Iowa, which had a total of four cities place, two in the top 10 for small metro areas and two for large metro areas. Two Utah cities placed in the top 10 large metro areas and one was ranked in the small metro area.

In 2014, the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging launched The Mayor's Pledge to encourage mayors and other local government officials to champion a supportive environment for an aging population. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado is one of 200 U.S. mayors who have joined this movement for purposeful, healthy aging. Other Florida mayors who have signed the pledge come from St. Petersburg, Deltona, Palm Bay and Ocala.