SURVEY SAYS: Big Cities or Suburbs for Retirement

My Dad’s dream was to retire back in the remote mountain town in which he grew up. He did, but was an hour away from health care when he needed it most at the end of his life.

A recent survey from Welltower finds that seven out of 10 big-city dwellers want to live in their current city when they are 80-years-old and older. They cite access to high-quality health care and big-city transportation options to address mobility concerns as top reasons.


Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “Do you think big cities are a better place to retire? And, do you plan to move when you retire?”


More than two-thirds (67.2%) of responding readers indicated they do not think big cities are a better place to retire than small towns or remote locations, while nearly one-third (32.8%) said they are.


Respondents were nearly evenly split on plans to move when they retire, with 46.3% saying “yes” they plan to move and 53.7% saying “no.”


In verbatim comments, quite a few readers agreed that being away from health care is a big deal, with some saying that consideration is a necessity for choosing where to live in retirement. However, many readers noted that smaller cities and some small towns have quality health care or are not far from it. Several readers encouraged retiring when it makes you happy, and others noted their plans depend on where family and other support is. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “When I was in my 30s my vision of retirement was lying on a beach in the Caribbean with a cute guy bringing me drinks with umbrellas in them. Now that I’m approaching retirement my vision has changed to be close to family, friends and health care. It’s tough growing up!”


Thank you to all who responded to the survey!



The best place is the place you can afford and makes you happiest.

You will find me on a beach.

I would hesitate to live in the big city when I retire due to safety concerns as I age. I would be less likely to venture out after dark on my own, etc. I am also fortunate enough, though, that if I do need the big city health care facilities I either have family to get me there, or can afford alternative transportation to get there. For that reason, I prefer to live in a suburban smaller-town environment.

Access to quality health is important, but I do not think that necessarily requires living in a big city. I plan to move to be closer to family and to achieve a more affordable standard of living.

I plan to move to a slower pace, less tax-adverse state/country.

Unfortunately, where people want to retire may differ from where they can afford to retire. Hopefully, those of us involved in the retirement arena have helped more people to be able to retire when and where they want to.

My dad retired and moved to a very small town. He was 30 minutes from a hospital and 6 hours from a good hospital. He survived 2 heart attacks and succumbed to Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. If you have a good support system and a good local clinic, it can be a great move.

I plan to stay where I am. This means that I will be close to family, friends and doctors I have a relationship with.

How about creating a small town with big city amenities like high quality medical care!

I do not plan to move. The medical I have access to here is very good. The added benefit is that the health care professionals know me and my medical history. When and if my mobility becomes impaired to the point I struggle with getting to care facilities, I will have family and friends nearby to help. All pluses to me.

I live on a farm near a city of about 40k people. The city has a regional hospital and numerous physician specialists. I live about an hour or so from a city of nearly 700k residents. I have the best of both worlds and would never move.

We have purchased our future retirement home – on lake close to a small town. It’s 45 minutes from the “big city”. The peace and quiet and slower lifestyle are worth more than being close to the city. Smaller towns and cities in this area have excellent health care; not the cutting edge, but near enough. Counting down the next 8 years…

The best places are those that are familiar and near all the necessities. I don’t want a 20 minute drive to the supermarket when I’m 85.

“Remote” is relative. If you’re in good health and able to drive, 30 – 45 minutes by car isn’t too difficult to deal with. On the other hand, as a baby boomer, I’m seeing a reverse migration of lots of my generation’s parents. Many can no longer navigate their bi-annual trip to spend 7 months in the south as they’ve become frail or lost a spouse.

College town.

I can’t imagine the cost of living in a big city is worth it (say NYC or large cities in California). Many big cities still have limited public transportation though they have some great hospitals (i.e. St Louis metro area where I work). I might move to Texas, but affordable living is still an hour or so from the best hospitals, such as in Dallas. There are good hospitals in the suburbs. That is more a function of continual economic growth in the area around Dallas. I definitely will not move to an older city or very rural area.

I live in Los Angeles and except for the high taxes, it is just about perfect for retirement – easy access to good health care, beaches, hiking trails, bike culture, mass transit, lots of social networks, and most important, my kids and grandkids are here. PS. Sorry to hear about your dad.

Go live where your heart is to be happy! Being an hour away from medical can happen in a rural setting or in a big city, depending on the transportation available. Live your dream; don’t settle.

My answer for #2 would have been it depends if that were an option. The reason being is that I want to retire near where my children are and if they move away, I may move closer to where they go.

New York City would be the best – provided that we have enough $ to live there.

“Green acres is the place for me!”

Love being in the DFW metroplex & plan to retire here. We get to live in a town that has a small town vibe & yet we’re minutes away from 2 major cities, 2 airports & have all the amenities (medical, food, entertainment, etc.) all around us.

The ability to travel for extended periods of time while retaining a home base near family sounds ideal.

I would love to be able to retire to the beach but because of my family’s health history, need to be close to a hospital. Luckily I don’t have to worry about that decision because I will probably NEVER be able to retire because of my financial health. It’s tough to save when you are a 1 income household and have all the bills of a couple without the second income to help pay them. Maybe I’ll find out that Howard Hughes put me in his will.

I am retired and have no plans to move away from the city. Most importantly, our grown children and other family and friends live here.

I want to retire to a slightly warmer place with less snow but I can still enjoy the seasons.

I am moving to Florida when I retire for sunshine and a more island time way of life.

I think downtowns are perfect for bookends – when young and without a young family, and when old and without a young family. A 2nd or 3rd or 4th home to retreat to would be nice, of course, to shake things up…

Smaller cities – i.e. Des Moines IA – are the best situation. You can be in a small town within 20 minutes of great healthcare, volunteer opportunities, and plenty of things to keep you active and interested. The best of both worlds.

The mountains of western North Carolina. I need to escape from this crazy world.

I’m interested in relocating to a mid-sized city (population 30,000 – 100,000) or one within 30-50 miles of a larger city to have access to amenities and services. My wife and I are ultimately planning to relocate to where our daughter settles, if she leaves the area we live in now.

Near the waves so I can watch the sun either rise or sink behind them each day.

A lot of big cities now have retirement “villages” which allow you to continue to live on your own and still have access to shopping, health care, etc.

I will want to retire next to a good support network of family and friends. A planned retirement community with activities for seniors would be nice.

I don’t think big cities have anything over small towns or remote locations when it comes to retirement. I think whatever location you love and feel comfortable in is the best place to retire. I happen to live in a big city and since I love the place, I’m not going anywhere when I retire. The pastor of my church might disagree with me a little. He travels a couple of hours north every few weeks for some rest to a place that provides a peaceful place for both active and retired priests to get away to or to retire to. However, when I wondered whether he would move there when he retired, he told me you retire where your doctors are 🙂

IT comes down to economics/affordability vs. access to transportation and health care.

I guess everyone hopes for nothing but good health when they retire, so most want to retire to their dream spot which for me would be the mountains of NH. If I need access to better health care down the road then there isn’t anything saying that I can’t move again.

Some place with cooler summertime temps

Once in a while I think about moving back to the small town I grew up, but when I go back for a visit, I remember why I left.

I live in a large city for me personally I want to be close to quality health care. I won’t be moving when I retire. With that said, people should retire where they are most comfortable and content. Retirement is framed by the dreams of a different lifestyle – fulfill those dreams the best you can, wherever you want!

I love where we live. We live in a semi-rural area but close enough to the city to have access to good health care and city amenities. We also have all four seasons. While winter can get long, one can always go somewhere warmer for a month or two!

Aspen, CO

Close to family, where ever that may be….

I answered yes, that big cities are better, but it is all relative. What do you consider a big city? I wouldn’t move to L.A., Chicago, NYC, etc., but I also wouldn’t want to live in a town with a population of 5000 people. It all depends on the support network you need and have. If you have none, then you may need the services of a “bigger” city.

My plan is to move south in the winter and come back to New England in the summer. Fortunately, you can live almost anywhere in New England and be an hour or so from the Boston hospitals.

Live where you are happiest!

Warmer temperatures and near our children

My ideal would be a place at the beach.

For me, I am looking for a small city to retire at that is near the beach. A remote location or small town is not for me but by the same token I do not care for big cities. I fall somewhere in the middle.

I live in a rural area now. The last thing I want to do when I retire is enter the hustle and bustle of a big city….that is certainly not relaxing in retirement. I plan to spend my time in quiet leisure reading books and enjoying nature.

There are trade-offs wherever you choose to live. My goal is to be near those who will (I hope) be looking out for me when I need help.

Much as we may not want to think about it, I think health care accessibility should be part of the equation of where to retire unless you take a cavalier attitude about survival! Then what the heck, if you are happy where you are and content to take whatever time is allowed and willing to assume the risk that you could die because there’s no accessible or poor quality health care …then go for it. Live happy with the time you have.

Near family and friends!

Smaller towns with less traffic and stress are best places to live in retirement

When I was in my 30s my vision of retirement was lying on a beach in the Caribbean with a cute guy bringing me drinks with umbrellas in them. Now that I’m approaching retirement my vision has changed to be close to family, friends and health care. It’s tough growing up!



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Strategic Insight or its affiliates.