Urban retirement
June 27, 2011 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Best cities to retire in in the northeastern US? Must be affordable, walkable, drivable, safe, and welcoming to older adults.

I'm trying to advise my dad, who's in his early 60s and has stopped working, on where to retire. Right now he's in a northern NJ suburb; he'll be there for at least the next few years to take care of his mother, who's in a nursing home in the area. She's not in great shape and it's likely that he'll be thinking of moving in the next few years. He's open to any location that can improve on his current location. Things that are not so great about his current NJ town include:

-really high property taxes (around $10,000/year for his 1500-sq-foot condo)
-hard to walk anywhere, unless you want to walk along the Death Highway to Wendy's or the gas station
-doctors/ medical facilities are a good 30-minute drive, and are scattered all over the place
-it's not terribly pleasant to look at

He's thinking of moving to a more urban environment. He's open to anywhere in the northeastern US, not too far from family in Boston, New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia. He tells me he'd prefer city living over a suburb or small town. The place he moves to would ideally be:

-affordable (i.e., can get a decent 2-bedroom place for under $350,00, with not-too-high maintenance and property taxes)
-pleasant and walkable, with good public transportation
-yet with option of owning a car and housing said car in an attached garage (this rules out huge parts of NYC, otherwise I'd encourage him to move there)
-safe and physically attractive
-with a critical mass of older adults, where a single man in his 60s wouldn't be out of place
-decent concentration of doctors and medical facilities
-close to an international airport (he likes to travel)
-good cultural attractions are a bonus

What cities, and neighborhoods within cities, fit the bill? Philly is a very real option for him, but he thinks it caters more to younger people than to retirees, and it's not the safest place. Certain neighborhoods in Philly might work, though, as might other, smaller cities that I haven't thought of. Any suggestions are welcome-- thanks in advance.
posted by ms.codex to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Lancaster, PA?
posted by contessa at 7:50 PM on June 27, 2011

If he's looking for urban, Philly might really be his best option. Yes, there are lots of young people moving there these days, but for the same reasons he would move there.

Also, has he considered Montreal? I lived there for a couple of years and ran into a number of Americans who retired up there. Walkable, international, social, safe, and amazingly cheap, with more culture than any American city twice its size.
posted by vecchio at 8:01 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bayside, Queens, NY?


Bay Terrace is a large, convenient shopping center, and there are senior centers on 35th Avenue. Bell Blvd is a decent commercial district.
posted by chengjih at 8:05 PM on June 27, 2011

A small college town like Ithaca, or Princeton, or Saratoga Springs, NY or Northampton, MA can be extremely pleasant. The right neighborhood can be eminently walkable.

(The further north you look, the more horrible the winters, of course...)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:07 PM on June 27, 2011

Maybe Boston metro area would fit. Decent public transportation, walkable, world class medical facilities. Expensive but his budget should cover a two bedroom condo somewhere. Depending on the neighborhood/city car ownership ranges from very impractical to entirely doable.
posted by 6550 at 8:10 PM on June 27, 2011

How about Alexandria, VA?

Old Town strikes me as exactly the sort of place where I'd like to retire to. Everything's walkable, there are gorgeous parks and a damn nice waterfront. The architecture's pretty great too.

National Airport is a 10 minute train ride away, and Dulles/BWI aren't too far out either. (You could actually walk to National if you really wanted. There's a trail that takes you straight there.)

Speaking of trains, it's right next to an Amtrak station, with direct service to..... Boston, New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia.

Culturally, Alexandria's got a lot going on, as does Arlington (which has the best community theatre scene I've seen anywhere). You're also a very short Metro or cab ride away from DC, and all that it has to offer. Lots of good restaurants too...

No idea about the price aspect. $350k might be a stretch if you want a garage in Old Town.
posted by schmod at 8:27 PM on June 27, 2011

I'll second contessa's Lancaster, Pa. recommendation. In recent years, this small city has undergone a revival of sorts and its First Friday events are well attended, there are cultural events at Franklin & Marshall College, and there are some good restaurants in and around town. He should probably look at the neighborhoods surrounding F&M, which is not that far from the center of the city, and provides extra security near the campus. Though the campus itself skews young, the town does not; in addition, Lancaster is only a few miles from Willow Valley, which is a retirement hot spot. There are numerous medical practices in the county, and Hershey Medical Center is an easy drive (haven't timed it, but I'll say under an hour). The train station downtown has an Amtrak line that goes to 30th Street Station in Philly (a two-hour trip, iirc), and I *think* there's a train/bus service to the airport from there. Harrisburg International Airport isn't that far, either. Plus, Lancaster County itself has a boatload of things to do and see and isn't that far from Baltimore, Philly and D.C.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:30 PM on June 27, 2011

Oh, and I'll throw in a good word for Lancaster too. It's far nicer than a town in Middle-of-Nowhere, PA has any right to be. I'm always pleasantly surprised whenever I visit there. You could do much, much worse.

There are any number of other college towns in PA that fit your description too.
posted by schmod at 8:51 PM on June 27, 2011

posted by buttercup at 9:23 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Northampton sounds good, although I wouldn't call it urban. Also, Dartmouth alums love to retire to Hanover, NH. Again it's small and rural, but is walkable if you live in town and the driving is very chill in terms of traffic and pacing. The advantage of a college town as a retired person is that the college offers all kinds of events and free activities that are generally pretty open to the community.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:29 AM on June 28, 2011

buttercup: "Pittsburgh."

Umm, Pittsburgh is not walkable. It's barely driveable. And it does not have good public transportation (PAT Transit is an ongoing joke, especially with the recent budget cuts.)

Not too many cultural attractions either, unless you consider football a cultural attraction.

In short, not Pittsburgh.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:35 AM on June 28, 2011

While I could never recommend it for someone who was not retired, Erie PA, seems to have most of what your father is looking for. Might be a little too far from Boston and NY, but it's cheap as hell to live there.
posted by Buckshot at 6:40 AM on June 28, 2011

Can't recommend a specific city, but also take a look at Delaware.

An older guy I volunteer with who currently lives in NJ is very seriously looking at buying a home in Delaware to retire to. Property taxes are about 1/10th of what they are in NJ for a similar property if I'm understanding him correctly.
posted by de void at 6:52 AM on June 28, 2011

While I love Old Town Alexandria, I don't think it fits well with the cost issue - the walkable area is very expensive, and the parts of Alexandria that could possibly work at that price point with a garage/driveway are harder to navigate on foot.
posted by brilliantine at 9:48 AM on June 28, 2011

Stamford CT
posted by IndigoJones at 5:17 PM on June 28, 2011

PS - urge him to rent for a year before buying. You don't a place till you live there for a while
posted by IndigoJones at 5:18 PM on June 28, 2011

In short, not Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh! Totally Pittsburgh.

Housing is cheap, Allegheny County has a large senior citizen population, and there are lots of health care facilities due to UPMC. The main drawback is that it's a ways from the Philly/Boston/etc. family. Pick the right neighborhood for your needs - the East End in general and Bloomfield in particular might be enjoyable for him, in terms of pleasant walking - there's sufficient transit and walkability. There's a good deal of art, and the universities bring interesting people and events to town. And the scenery is beautiful.
posted by orangejenny at 9:18 PM on June 28, 2011

Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone!

Lancaster seems like a real find-- I'll definitely pass it on to my dad.
posted by ms.codex at 6:26 PM on June 29, 2011

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