Study: Best Cities to Grow Old in Florida

If you want to get the most bang for your retirement buck and say goodbye to cold winter weather for good, look no further than the Sunshine State. The breathtaking beauty of its southern coastal cities is a major draw for retirees, but if you're not a beach bum, you'll find there are many desirable places to call home further north. Deciding where to settle down may be difficult with so many outstanding choices, so we've put together a list of Florida's best places to retire.

10 Best Cities to Retire in Florida

Study Methodology

For this study, we focused on those cities with a population of 100,000 or more. Using U.S. Census data, we ranked each of them based on these five criteria:

  1. Senior Population
  2. Housing
  3. Income
  4. Recreation
  5. Healthcare/Social Assistance

Cities that have a significant number of retirees tend to offer a wider range of opportunities to stay active and socialize. We looked at the percentage of each city's residents who are 65 or older to determine where connecting with other seniors is easiest.

Downsizing into an apartment or townhome may be the right choice for retirees who don't need as much space or want to reduce their overhead costs. Our rankings considered the percentage of multi-unit housing structures in each city to take the guesswork out of finding a place to live.

The amount of money you have coming in when you retire plays an important part in determining where you can afford to live. We ranked each city based on the median household income for seniors over 65, which includes things like Social Security, pension benefits and earnings from retirement savings.

If you're looking forward to having time to pursue your hobbies, get in shape or expand your cultural horizons, you want to find a city that offers the kinds of recreational opportunities you're looking for. To help you find your perfect match, we ranked each city based on how many people there are compared to the number of art, entertainment and recreation establishments.

Taking care of yourself physically and mentally ensures that you don't spend more time than you have to at the doctor's office. If you're concerned about being able to find the kinds of services you need when you move, take a look at how each city ranks based on the ratio of people to healthcare and social assistance establishments.

10. Tallahassee

  • Population Over 65: 7.9%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 44.4%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $45,795
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 2,749.6
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 300.1

Florida's capital is a bustling city of nearly 187,000 people. Although it has one of the lowest senior populations in our rankings, we think it's worth a second look as a potential retirement spot. The median income for residents 65 and over is actually the best on our list and housing prices are fairly low. There's a solid healthcare infrastructure and some of the things seniors may enjoy doing include hiking through the Apalachicola National Forest or fly fishing along Lake Talquin.

Did You Know: The Tallahassee Automobile Museum displays a number of rare vehicles, including Abraham Lincoln's horse-drawn carriage and several Batmobiles.

9. Miami

  • Population Over 65: 15.9%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 62.8%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $16,397
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1,934.1
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 203.8

With over 413,000 residents, Miami is by far the largest city in our rankings. While it's known primarily for its colorful people and vibrant nightlife, it still attracts a fair number of retirees. Home prices are a little higher but not outrageous, and multi-unit structures account for almost 63% of the city's housing. There's never a dull moment here and retirees have a vast array of things to keep them busy, like boating along Key Biscayne or cheering on the Heat at American Airlines Arena.

Did You Know: Miami's Art Deco district features the largest collection of art deco architecture in the world.

8. St. Petersburg

  • Population Over 65: 15.9%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 35.9%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $32,887
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 3,287.2
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 269.1

Part of the Tampa Bay area, St. Petersburg is an extremely affordable place to call home for budget-conscious retirees. About 16% of the city's 247,000 residents are over 65 and there are several neighborhoods that cater specifically to seniors. Housing prices are reasonable for buyers and renters alike and the cost of living is around 10% lower than the national average. Art lovers will appreciate the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, which houses works by Renoir, Cezanne and Gauguin, while the bay is ideal for sailing.

Did You Know: In 1914, the first commercial flight in the world departed from St. Petersburg.

7. Gainesville

  • Population Over 65: 7.8%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 54.4%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $44,810
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 2,740.2
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 272.2

Moving on up to north central Florida, the city of Gainesville is another spot that's big in value, especially when it comes to housing. Slightly more than 126,000 people live in the area, and just under 8% are 65 or older. More than half the city's housing is made up of apartments, townhomes and the like, and seniors take home the third highest median income on our list. If you want to get outdoors, Paynes Prairie State Park is an excellent location for birding and the fish are always biting on Melrose Bay.

Did You Know: In 1965, Dr. J. Robert Cade invented Gatorade at Gainesville's University of Florida.

6. Coral Springs

  • Population Over 65: 8.6%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 42.1%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $45,167
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1,789.8
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 244.7

Although it's nearly 40 miles from Miami, Coral Springs is still considered part of the larger metro area. As a planned community, this city of 125,000 people includes all of the amenities retirees are looking for, including shopping, dining and more than 500 healthcare and social assistance providers. There are a number of programs in the community designed for active seniors, including fitness and hobby classes. Pompano Beach is just a short drive away if you want to dig your toes in the sand.

Did You Know: The covered bridge that crosses N.W. 95th Avenue is Coral Springs' oldest structure.

5. Hollywood

  • Population Over 65: 15.2%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 50.1%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $32,056
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1,482
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 273.5

Hollywood sits along Florida's Atlantic coast, nearly halfway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. This idyllic beach town of 145,000 people lands the number five spot on our list because of the availability of multi-unit housing and the multitude of recreational activities residents enjoy. The 2.5-mile Hollywood Beach Boardwalk has been recognized as one of the best in the country but if you don't feel like walking, you can always hop on a water taxi tour to see all of South Florida's best sights.

Did You Know: Hollywood is the home of the Seminole Indian Tribe.

4. Pompano Beach

  • Population Over 65: 18.7%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 65%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $32,938
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1,609.1
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 343.3

Known for its golden sand and world-class sport fishing, Pompano Beach has become the destination of choice for many seniors over the years. Almost 103,000 people live in the city and nearly 19% are over the age of 65. Pompano Beach has the highest percentage of multi-unit housing in our study and there are several premier retirement communities in the area. If you enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving, you'll find a number of sunken wrecks to explore just outside the Hillsboro Inlet.

Did You Know: Home of the Spirit of Innovation, Pompano Beach is one of only four airbases in the world for the Goodyear Blimp.

3. Clearwater

  • Population Over 65: 21%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 50.4%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $33,704
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1,672.8
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 206.7

Named for the sparkling blue of its waters, Clearwater sits on Florida's Gulf Coast just across the bay from Tampa. The city takes top honors when it comes to having the percentage of residents over 65, and it also ranks well for housing. Dolphin spotting along the coast is a popular pursuit among residents and visitors alike, but you can see even more ocean life at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Pier 60 Park is one of the best places to watch the sunset and listen to music from local entertainers.

Did You Know: Clearwater snagged the USA Today Reader's Choice vote for Best Beach Town 2013.

2. Fort Lauderdale

  • Population Over 65: 15.3%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 57.3%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $39,375
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1,010.3
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 198.5

Fort Lauderdale is often associated with spring breakers but it's surprisingly livable for retirees. About 15% of the city's 170,000 residents are over 65 and seniors earn a respectable median income. Healthcare and social assistance organizations are abundant, as is multi-unit housing. Some of the area's most frequented attractions include the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens and the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum. Touring the nearby Everglades via airboat is also an option if you've got a taste for adventure.

Did You Know: The Fort Lauderdale area is often used as a backdrop for television and movies like Donnie Brasco and the forthcoming Ride Along 2.

1. West Palm Beach

  • Population Over 65: 17%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 52.5%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $38,246
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1,213.1
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 178.2

West Palm Beach is one of Florida's top vacation spots but it's also a pretty great place to spend your golden years. This city of 102,000 people comes in at number one on our list, with excellent ratings across all five ranking categories. You'll find better deals on housing compared to some of West Palm Beach's neighboring cities, and the overall cost of living tends to be slightly lower. There's no shortage of doctors and healthcare providers in the area, and you won’t lack for ways to stay entertained.

Did You Know: With more than 150 golf courses, West Palm Beach has been dubbed the "Golf Capital of the World."

While we'd love to be able to include all of Florida's larger cities on our list, some of them, most notably Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, didn't quite make the cut. All three are great places to live and retire but when we looked at the numbers, the 10 cities in our rankings add up to the best choices overall.

The Top 10 Cities to Retire in Florida

RankCityPopulation Over 65Multi-unit HousingMedian Household IncomePeople per Art, Entertainment and Recreation EstablishmentPeople per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment
1West Palm Beach17.0%52.5%$38,2461,213.1178.2
2Fort Lauderdale15.3%57.3%$39,3751,010.3198.5
4Pompano Beach18.7%65.0%$32,9381,609.1343.3
6Coral Springs8.6%42.1%$45,1671,789.8244.7
8St. Petersburg15.9%35.9%$32,8873,287.2269.1

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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