Study: Best Cities to Grow Old in Idaho

With a cost of living that's below the national average, zero taxes on Social Security benefits and some of the best outdoor recreation in the country, Idaho is a retiree's dream. If you're a longtime Idahoan or a newcomer, here are the cities the CreditDonkey team thinks are the best places to retire.

Although the winters here tend to be a little colder, the Potato State is quickly heating up as one of the best places to spend your retirement years. Whether you prefer a busier city like Boise or one of the state's lesser-known locales, it won't take long to feel right at home.

10 Best Cities to Retire in Idaho

Study Methodology

We started by gathering information from the U.S. Census Bureau for all of Idaho's cities that had a population of 5,000 or more. To get our top 10, we ranked each of them according to these five criteria:

  1. Senior Population
  2. Housing
  3. Income
  4. Recreation
  5. Healthcare/social assistance

When you're the new retiree in town, making friends can be difficult if there aren't many other seniors around. The first thing we considered for our study is the percentage of each city's population over 65.

If you're trying to reduce your cost of living in retirement, selling your home and moving into something smaller may give you more wiggle room in your budget. A townhome, apartment or condo is usually not as expensive and there's less maintenance to worry about. We looked at the percentage of multi-unit housing structures in each city to see where retirees have the best odds of finding affordable housing.

Your monthly income is likely to look very different once you've left the workforce for good. You may be receiving Social Security benefits, pension benefits or have money coming in from a part-time job. To assess how seniors in each city are doing financially, we looked at the median household income for residents aged 65 and over.

Once you retire, you'll likely have a lot of free time on your hands and it's important to find ways to keep busy. Moving to a city with a wider range of choices when it comes to the arts, entertainment and recreation gives you the most opportunities to stay active. We considered the number of people to art, entertainment and recreation establishments in each city to find those places that had the most to offer.

We also used a ratio to rank each city's access to things like healthcare and social services programs for seniors. Specifically, we looked at the number of people per healthcare and social assistance establishment to pinpoint which cities had the least number of patients to service providers.

10. Twin Falls

  • Population Over 65: 12.9%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 23.9%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $28,818
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 2508.8
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 174.4

With more than 45,000 residents, Twin Falls is the largest city in Idaho's Magic Valley region but it still has an intimate, cozy feel. About 13% of the population is over the age of 65 and there's no shortage of affordable housing, including several retirement communities. Overall, the cost of living is almost 10% below the national average and with more than 250 healthcare and social assistance providers, seniors will find it easy to get the services they need.

Did You Know: The drop from Shoshone Falls is actually 52 feet longer than Niagara Falls.

9. Garden City

  • Population Over 65: 18.3%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 18.2%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $26,903
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1875.2
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 388

Garden City sits on the western bank of the Boise River, just outside Boise itself, making it an ideal place to escape for retirees. Although it is a much smaller town, with only around 11,000 residents, you won't sacrifice any modern amenities since you're so close to the capital. Housing tends to be a little more expensive but you won't spend as much on things like utilities, transportation and food. If you're ready to get outdoors, there are several parks in the area, as well as a half dozen golf courses and the Boise Zoo.

Did You Know: Garden City's name comes from the various gardens planted by Chinese immigrants who were among the area's first settlers.

8. Pocatello

  • Population Over 65: 10.5%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 25.4%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $37,176
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 3222.2
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 216.5

Pocatello is located in southeastern Idaho, close to the American Falls Reservoir and the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Even though it's in a fairly out of the way place, that hasn't stopped it from growing into one of the state's largest cities and top visitor attractions. We like it for retirees because it doesn't cost a lot to live here, it's got a good crime rate and the ratio of people to healthcare and social assistance facilities is relatively low. Whether you prefer taking in a show at the Stephens Performing Arts Center or checking out the World Famous Museum of Clean, there's always something to do.

Did You Know: A tributary of the Snake River, the Portneuf River, which cuts through Pocatello, is unusual because it flows north instead of south.

7. Hayden

  • Population Over 65: 18.6%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 12.8%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $34,949
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1935.6
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 376.4

If you head north out of Coeur d'Alene, you'll soon stumble upon the quiet little community of Hayden. Out of all our cities, Hayden has the highest percentage of residents aged 65 or older, and many of them come for the outdoor recreation opportunities at Hayden Lake and the Coeur d'Alene National Forest. The city's Community Services Department sponsors a number of adult fitness classes to help you stay in shape, including sunrise tai chi at the Hayden City Park.

Did You Know: The Bozanta Tavern was one of Hayden's most popular tourist spots at the turn of the 20th century, and Idaho's first 18-hole golf course opened here in 1912.

6. Preston

  • Population Over 65: 14.4%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 13.5%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $38,786
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1715
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 197.9

Preston is downright tiny compared to some of the other cities in our rankings, with a population of around 5,100 people, but it's proof that great things come in smaller packages. There's a low ratio of residents to healthcare providers so you won't have to worry about long wait times at the doctor, and the median household income for seniors is the second highest on our list. The Pioneer Historic Byway, which runs through the city, takes you to some of the area's most interesting attractions like the Soda Springs Geyser and the Niter Ice Cave.

Did You Know: One of Preston's largest events is the annual Idaho Festival of Lights, which runs from Thanksgiving through the end of December.

5. Sandpoint

  • Population Over 65: 14.5%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 35.6%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $27,286
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 740.3
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 76.3

Even though it's number five on our list, Sandpoint takes top honors in three of our rankings categories. It has the best ratio of people to both entertainment and healthcare facilities as well as the highest percentage of multi-unit housing structures. Housing is a little more expensive here but it's worth it if you want to cruise Lake Pend Oreille or go skiing at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. If you'd rather stay indoors, the Panida Theater sponsors plays, concerts and other arts events throughout the year.

Did You Know: At 43 square miles long and 1,150 feet deep, Lake Pend Oreille is Idaho's largest lake and the fifth deepest in the country.

4. Boise City

  • Population Over 65: 11.5%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 25.7%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $38,829
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 2282.8
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 227.5

Boise is not only the state capital, it's also Idaho's largest city with more than 212,000 residents. We like Boise as a retirement spot because of the widespread availability of multi-unit housing and the fact that the 65+ crowd earns the highest median income of all 10 cities. There are over 900 healthcare and social assistance providers in the city, including a dozen hospitals, which means you won't have to look far to find quality medical care.

Did You Know: Boise's statehouse building is heated geothermally by underground hot springs.

3. Lewiston

  • Population Over 65: 18.1%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 23%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $27,883
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 2003.2
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 203.6

Lewiston sits on the Snake River, in between the Washington-Idaho border and the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. About 32,000 people call the city home and just over 18% are adults 65 or older. The city rates well in terms of the number of apartments, townhomes and condos that are available and housing won't break the bank. If you're looking to stretch your legs, you can take a hike through Hells Gate State Park or head further south to check out the Nez Perce National Forest.

Did You Know: Lewiston very briefly served as the first capital of the Idaho Territory.

2. Idaho Falls

  • Population Over 65: 12.1%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 25.6%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $35,990
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 2144.4
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 140.9

Idaho Falls, the largest city in eastern Idaho with nearly 58,000 residents, serves as the region's primary business and cultural center. Around 12% of the population is 65 or older and the city has the second lowest ratio of people to healthcare providers. Whether you prefer to be indoors or outdoors, there are plenty of things to do, like golfing at one of the city's three public courses or taking a stroll through the Museum of Idaho. You're also within a two-hour drive of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Did You Know: The Idaho Falls Temple was the first Latter-day Saints temple built in the state.

1. Coeur d'Alene

  • Population Over 65: 14.5%
  • Multi-unit Housing Structures: 30.3%
  • Median Household Income 65 and Over: $33,031
  • People per Art, Entertainment and Recreation Establishment: 1266.1
  • People per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment: 168.8

We chose Coeur d'Alene to fill our number one spot because its individual rankings in all five categories make it the most well-rounded city of the 10. Almost 15% of the city's nearly 46,000 residents are over 65 and there's an abundance of multi-unit housing structures. The median household income for seniors is in the middle range compared to the rest of our cities and Coeur d'Alene has one of the lowest ratios for healthcare access. Aside from all that, the city is a prime destination for energetic seniors. Lake Coeur d'Alene is perfect for fishing, sailing and sightseeing via seaplane, or you could saddle up for a trail ride at Rider Ranch.

Did You Know: It's said that the Coeur d'Alene Indian tribe got its name from French fur traders who perceived the people as having "the heart of an awl."

Idaho's laid-back attitude and breathtaking natural scenery make it an ideal pick for seniors who may be looking for a somewhat slower pace in retirement. All of the 10 cities we've chosen for our study have something unique to offer, but they share a common thread in terms of their affordability and livability for retirees...

The Top 20 Cities to Retire in Idaho

RankCityPopulation Over 65Multi-unit HousingMedian Household IncomePeople per Art, Entertainment and Recreation EstablishmentPeople per Healthcare and Social Assistance Establishment
1Coeur d'Alene14.5%30.3%$33,0311,266.1168.8
2Idaho Falls12.1%25.6%$35,9902,144.4140.9
4Boise City11.5%25.7%$38,8292,282.8227.5
9Garden City18.3%18.2%$26,9031,875.2388.0
10Twin Falls12.9%23.9%$28,8182,508.8174.4
14Post Falls10.7%18.7%$37,9292,604.6311.4

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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