Choosing Your Retirement Locale

By Robert F. Bornstein, PhD and Mary A. Languirand, PhD

People choose retirement locales for all sorts of reasons, some personal (like proximity to family), others more general (like weather). It's something you'll want to put some time into as part of your retirement planning. Below we've listed some of the most common options based on the sorts of opportunities they provide. We realize this list is a bit artificial: Some places don't fit neatly within any category, and some meet multiple criteria (for example, coastal Maine is scenic and also brings you proximity to activities like sailing and fishing). Cohort living-formal or informal-can take place just about anywhere.

So this list below isn't meant to be exhaustive - just to get you thinking about possibilities...

  • Urban

    Some retirees opt for urban settings-large cities (like New York), or smaller ones (like Cincinnati). Typically an urban setting means apartment living, walkability, access to a wide variety of cultural opportunities, and (hopefully) decent public transportation.
  • Suburban

    In most suburban areas walkability is limited-you'll have to access many goods and services by car. If you live near a commuter bus or train line you can combine the extra space that usually comes with suburban living with access to urban cultural resources like concerts and museums.
  • Historic

    Gettysburg, PA has always attracted a large number of history buffs and retired military families; Sharpsburg, MD would also fall into this category.
  • Scenic

    Places like Sedona, AZ and the Napa Valley in California belong in the scenic group; we had a friend who moved to Missoula, MT for this reason as well. (Though after a couple of tough Montana winters she relocated to a more temperate climate.)
  • Activity Focused

    Some retirees choose settings based on the availability of a particular activity (like boating or skiing).
  • Education Focused

    Increasingly colleges and universities are offering educational programming designed specifically for retirees, and many retirement communities are building educational opportunities into their pitch.
  • Culture Focused

    We have a colleague-a skilled violinist-who's retiring to Stockbridge, MA because of the region's extensive concert schedule. Other culture-focused retirement opportunities might involve access to museums, theatre, or dance.
  • Cohort Living: Formal

    Here we're talking about settings like senior communities and continuing care communities-places specifically designed with older adults in mind. If living among age mates is important to you, this is one way to ensure that you'll be surrounded by peers.
  • Cohort Living: Informal

    A NORC would fall into this category, as would a group of friends who simply choose to retire close by each other.
  • Weather Based

    That's why Florida has long been popular-and increasingly retirees are looking westward as well, to Arizona and New Mexico.

Robert Bornstein and Mary Languirand are the authors of When Someone You Love Needs Nursing Home, Assisted Living, or In Home Care, which is available at, or may be purchased directly from HarperCollins Publishers.

Our latest book is entitled How to Age in Place: Planning for a Happy, Independent, and Financially Secure Retirement, published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House.