The BEST ranking and the 3 P’s of PlaceTo dig deeper into the ways in which midlifers are thinking about place, LifeGoesStrong.com – the premier network of information and content sites for 48- to 67-year old mid-lifers – completed a study to determine the “Best Places for Boomers to Live.” Specifically, Life Goes Strong looked at how midlifers feel about ten city characteristics, covering a gamut of things important to us when it comes to a place to live. The metro areas with the highest concentrations of midlifers were scored on these factors, yielding the top five Boomer ‘Extra Special’ Towns, or the BEST ranking.
Our 10 most Important Criteria in Choosing a Place to Live
Based on an extensive online survey of midlifers, the ten characteristics in our BEST ranking stacked up this way:
- Cost of living
- Violent crime rate
- Average home price
- Air quality
- Unemployment rate
- Proximity to hospitals
- Proximity to interstate transportation
- Proximity to higher education
- Proximity to state and national parks
This ranking belies the midlifers stereotype of spendthrift hedonists. Prudence tops the list; high living and highbrow fill out the bottom.
In fact, this ranking reveals three underlying things that matter most to us about place: Pocketbook first. Peace of mind next. And only then, proximity to indulgences and amenities.
Three of the top five characteristics on our criteria list are related to money – cost of living, average home price and unemployment rate. Above all, we midlifers value affordability. Even if it wasn’t always so, profligacy is not part of place.
Peace of Mind
The other two characteristics in our top five are about security – from crime to pollution, while the factors related to money could also be thought of as security-minded — that is, financial security. Which makes everything at the top of the list about peace of mind. These top five are the basics that put the foundation under the place we chose. All the extras come next.
The mistake I made, along with many of my fellow travelers, was putting the proximity of where we could get to ahead of the place where we were. We thought that getting there was the same as being there. What many of us learned the hard way is that home is a matter of where you are not where you are near. Home is the place you live everyday, not the destinations you visit occasionally.
Walkability and driving distance are nice; nearby parks and universities are, too. But these are extras. Even having many hospitals is not a top priority. So these characteristics, while important, are secondary. They break ties, but never come before the basics.
TOP 5 BEST PLACES FOR BOOMERS TO LIVE — AND THE WINNERS ARE…
1) PITTSBUGRH, PENNSYLVANIA: Pittsburgh has it all: Affordability, security, and nearby-access to many attractive amenities. This very livable city at the confluence of the Alleghany, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers also offers midlifers a good cost of living and reasonable housing prices.
On the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking, Pittsburgh does as well on the basics as every other city evaluated, with one notable exception: It has the poorest air quality. But with a solid foundation in basics, the extras push Pittsburgh to the top, making it today’s number one city for midlifers.
2) PORTLAND, MAINE: The Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine region is much more than a portal to backcountry adventures and tucked-away holidays. It stands out as a place to be for midlifers, especially in terms of security and peace of mind. On the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking, Portland gets high marks relative to other cities for the lowest rates of crime and unemployment.
Not unexpectedly, though, given its location, Portland’s cost of living is pricey. And the city does not score well when it comes to walkability. But it is a transportation gateway to other attractions, which, when added to a solid foundation, makes it today’s number two city for midlifers.
3) KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE: The Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia metro area is a great home for midlifers, especially in terms of affordability. It boasts a good cost of living compared to other cities popular with the over-50 set, along with very affordable housing. Plus, its crime rate and unemployment are relatively low. The city’s one downside is a poor mark for air quality.
On the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking, Kingsport scores less well than other cities when it comes to proximity to other things. While this is a disadvantage, the city delivers well on the basics, making it today’s number three city for midlifers.
4) YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: Among the areas included in the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking, the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio/Pennsylvania region offers midlifers the best combination of basics essential to a good place to live. It scores above average on all of them and has the lowest average home price. In short, Youngstown leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to the basics.
Youngstown is not as highly rated on extra amenities as other cities on our list, particularly walkability and proximity to state and national parks. However, these drawbacks don’t diminish Youngtown’s appeal because it scores strongly on the fundamentals, making it today’s number four city for midlifers.
5) ROCHESTER, NEW YORK: Across the board, the Great Lakes city of Rochester measures up well, with the exception of cost of living. The city is a fundamentally-appealing place to be and offers above-average proximity to both hospitals and state and national parks. It is also one of only two cities in the top five of the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking that is not below average on walkability.
The combination of good fundamentals and great accessibility make Rochester today’s number five city for midlifers.
The No. 6-10 Best Places for Boomers To Live — AND THE RUNNERS-UP ARE…
Some great places just missed making it into our Top 5. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve mention or serious consideration by those of us looking for a great spot to live. Thus, here is our ranking of the five next most popular places to live:
6) CANTON, OHIO: The Canton-Massillon, Ohio region is affordable, with an attractive cost of living and reasonable home prices. While midlifers don’t find it quite as centrally located to various attractions and amenities as the cities above, it stacks up well on the fundamentals, making it the number six city in the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking.
7) YORK, PENNSYLVANIA: The York-Hanover, Pennsylvania metro area is solid across the board on all the basics. And though it may not have one standout attribute, it holds its own against other cities when it comes to affordability and peace of mind. These basics make it a good place to live and the number seven city in the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking.
8) CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA: The best thing about Charleston is that it is easy on the pocketbook. Of the ten cities evaluated in the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking, it is the second lowest in terms of cost of living and average home price, putting it in the number eight spot.
9) PALM BAY, FLORIDA: Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida is a walkable location with a good cost of living and affordable home prices. What it may lack in proximity to out-of-town attractions and amenities, it makes up for with accessibility to local amenities, which brings it in as the number nine city in our LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking.
10) SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA: Santa Rosa-Petaluma is a quintessential California locale and has some of the usual downsides associated with the state: expensive cost of living, not pedestrian-friendly, and high home prices. But the upsides — cleanest air quality rating on the list and access to the great outdoors — make it the number ten city in the LifeGoesStrong.com BEST ranking.