Life is sweet at home

Best places to retire, most affordable assisted living cities



What makes a great retirement city? A very different question is which are the most affordable places for assisted living?

Let’s look at some of the criterion for selection. When it comes to choosing a great place to retire, organizations such as AARP and the National Council on Aging suggest we look at issues such as housing costs, how tax structures impact retirees, weather, doctor and hospital accessibility, crime rates as well as volunteer, work, outdoor and cultural recreation opportunities.

On the other hand, when it’s time to consider assisted living for yourself or a loved one you may ask different questions. You will want to know is it close to healthcare, is it affordable and is it near family, friends, trusted agencies that can provide appropriate home care.

Best places to retire

These days there are a number of organizations listing “best places to retire.” At, the word for 2015 is that nationally Florida rules with 25 of the top 100 most popular places to retire. However, Washington is no slacker with six top spots: Sequim (#51), Bellingham (#58), Port Townsend (#72), the San Juan Islands (#76), Spokane (#80) and Seattle (#92). Interestingly, all six also made the list in 2014.

In contrast Forbes uses more economic factors to choose its top 25 cities in which to retire. This year it weighed data on nearly 500 cities from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The most important factors were: overall cost of living and home prices as compared with national averages, and general state tax climate for retirees (a point that Forbes has been tracking for years.) These are also the main reasons why there are just a few locations (Boise, Idaho and the Portland, Ore., suburb of Oak Grove) in the pricey Northeast and West Coast.

According to Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging list, Vancouver/Portland ranked 34th; Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue 48th and Spokane 51st in the Large Metro category.

Interestingly, Bellevue, Wash., the site of Andelcare’s officeranked third best place to retire in’s rankings for small to mid-sized cities. Renton placed 46th, Bellingham 47th, Olympia 55th, Kirkland 73rd and Redmond 77th.

Best places to age

A somewhat dated Sperling’s BestPlaces identifies those places which do the best job of caring for its elderly population. The “Best Cities for Seniors” study examined the state of senior care in the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

“This is different from the usual studies of retirement living,” said Bert Sperling, the study’s primary author. “When we first retire, we have the energy for traveling and sightseeing. At some point, we will all need specialized resources and facilities to help us cope with aging. That’s what this study examines.”

This study, produced in partnership with Bankers Life and Casualty Company, identifies cities that offer the best resources for less active seniors. The study analyzed nearly 50 categories such as various senior living facilities, comprehensive medical care, specialized transportation services, and a significant senior population.

Top Ten Cities for Seniors

  1. Portland, OR
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Pittsburgh, PA
  5. Milwaukee, WI
  6. Philadelphia, PA
  7. New York, NY
  8. Boston, MA
  9. Cincinnati, OH
  10. Chicago, IL

The report noted that Seattle has a low violent crime rate and, like Portland, offers excellent health care and transportation services for seniors. Seattle ranks near the top in life expectancy and low incidence of heart disease.

Seattle’s only obvious drawbacks are the high cost of living and a lack of sunny days (the fewest among the nation’s 50 largest cities). Another unique facet of these top two Northwest cities is an acute lack of religious involvement. Seattle and Portland do offer ample religious facilities, but they also have the lowest percentage of church-going residents in the nation– so be prepared to sit alone in the pew.

Most affordable assisted living cities

In a recent article in Today author Rob Lovitt quotes Robert Bua, president of CareScout, who, in conjunction with Genworth, produces an annual Cost of Care report that compares the cost of long-term care in 440 regions around the country.

“People often say that healthcare is local,” said Bua. “But the cost of long-term care is local, as well.”

According to the company’s latest report, for example, the national median monthly cost for accommodation in an assisted-living facility (ALF) is $3,500, or $42,000 per year. However, a look at the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country reveals monthly costs ranging from $2,250 ($27,000 per year) to nearly $6,200 ($73,950 per year). Among the most and least expensive cities in annual cost:

5 least expensive*

  • El Paso: $27,000
  • Miami: $30,000
  • Las Vegas: $33,000
  • Atlanta: $33,300
  • Jacksonville: $33,540

5 most expensive*

  • Boston: $73,950
  • Honolulu: $59,700
  • Chicago: $59,520
  • Philadelphia: 57,960
  • Columbus: $57,630

(*All figures refer to private, one-bedroom accommodations in facilities that provide assistance with daily living, e.g., health services and personal care, to people who do not need the level of care provided by a nursing home.)

By way of comparison, according to, Washington assisted living facility monthly rates for a one bedroom apartment average about $3,000.

Where would you like to retire?