College towns dominate the rankings. For example, Provo, Utah, home of Brigham Young University, and Iowa City, Iowa, where the University of Iowa is located, top the large- and small-cities lists. These places score high because of their mix of rich cultural activities as well as university-supplied medical centers and continuing education programs for seniors, Irving said.
These lists can help you identify economically vibrant spots to launch an encore career, but low- and middle-income retirees may not benefit from the job growth because of age discrimination and lack of education, said Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School. "Encore careers are appealing to only a small slice of elders and are usually those with high incomes," she said.
Most retirees would prefer to stay put. Nearly 90 percent of older Americans want to age in place, and 80 percent said they believed their current residence is where they will always live, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute.
"The important thing is to focus on how people can make their own cities better for elders," Ghilarducci said.
The Milken Institute designed its best cities for successful aging list to encourage community leaders to change their policies to better the lives of elderly Americans, Irving said, just like U.S. News & World Report's list of best universities pressured schools to improve.
Irving noted that his hometown of Los Angeles, ranked number 56th on the large-cities list, has made strides recently because it created an age-friendly task force last year that considers how municipal government actions affect the elderly.
In the U.S., the number of people age 65 and older will nearly double to 83.7 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Demographers forecast that one in five Americans will be age 65 or older by 2030.
"Longevity changes everything. We have huge choices to make as families and societies," Irving said.
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