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10 Great Cities for Older Singles

Hoping to meet someone new or find a welcoming place to live alone? Check out these spots

Let's start with a caveat: Trying to rate places on how they appeal to older singles is like picking a vacation spot for someone else. You could roam the hot spots of a town for months without meeting that special someone, then find a soul mate in a chance encounter at the post office.

Single? Meet new people and find love with help from AARP Dating.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire well- a woman laughing while sitting in a cafe

Some cities have vibrant singles scenes. — John Norman / Getty Images

Still, some cities are better than others for older singles, especially those who are seeking some place to retire.

We plied the country to find 10 great cities in which to retire for older singles, focusing primarily on places with convivial locals, a solid percentage of AARP-age residents and, of course, a lot of things to do — either solo or with a date.

We also kept an eye on health care resources and costs (although in some cases — notably San Francisco and New York — the sheer single-friendliness of the city trumped its admittedly steep cost of living). Read on (the 10 cities are in no particular order), and let us know from your experience what other cities and towns are particularly single-friendly, and why.

San Francisco

In the 1960s and '70s, San Francisco achieved mythical status as the land of free love. Fast-forward 40 years: Social mores have changed, but San Francisco still reigns as a bastion of active dating across all demographics. It helps, of course, that the city has a fairly compact center loaded with date-friendly diversions — indoors and out — to suit most tastes.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- hiking trails above San Francisco

A spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge. — Getty Images

San Francisco is among the top 10 metro areas for population density, with more than 800,000 people packed into a central city the size of Disney World.

The city has a diverse and tolerant population, with a strong gay and lesbian community and more than 100 distinct neighborhoods. S.F. is well known for its eccentricities, but it is also a high-functioning city. In 2010, Foreign Policy magazine ranked San Francisco as the world's 12th most important city. San Francisco also ranked ninth on the 2011 list of America's Most Literate Cities. The job market is holding up better than it is in most cities, and foreclosures are much less of a problem than they are elsewhere in California.

Maybe it is the mix of nature's wonders and cosmopolitan allure that sparks romance: Whether you are strolling the wharfs, huffing up one of the city's vertiginous hills, sampling sushi in the Noe Valley neighborhood or cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco seems to shine — at least when it's not blanketed in fog.

San Francisco is among the top 10 metro areas for population density, with more than 800,000 people packed into a central city the size of Disney World.

The city has a diverse and tolerant population, with a strong gay and lesbian community and more than 100 distinct neighborhoods. S.F. is well known for its eccentricities, but it is also a high-functioning city. In 2010, Foreign Policy magazine ranked San Francisco as the world's 12th most important city. San Francisco also ranked ninth on the 2011 list of America's Most Literate Cities. The job market is holding up better than it is in most cities, and foreclosures are much less of a problem than they are elsewhere in California.

Although traffic congestion and commute times are bad in San Francisco, driving is often optional. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) anchors one of the most efficient regional transit systems in the United States, and the system continues to grow. Both San Francisco and its huge woodsy park, the Presidio, have been honored as bicycle-friendly locales.

San Francisco's universities are yet one more place for older singles to meet up. San Francisco State University has an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The University of California, San Francisco, is exclusively devoted to health and medical education, which contributes to a high number of physicians per capita. The region is also an extremely healthy place to live. The metro area has a high proportion of population age 65 and older, and the age-adjusted health status of that population is among the best in the United States.


Romance, as we age, blossoms from ever deeper wells of the soul. True, probably, but it helps to have a charming, waterfront city to help get things rolling.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- a sailboat on the Charles River in Boston

Enjoy an afternoon sailing on the Charles River in Boston. — Getty Images

Boston manages to meld scrappy and intellectual — a relatively small city that is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world, bolstered by culture, parks and a fine quality of life.

Greater Boston (population 4.5 million) includes the city of Boston (617,594) and more than 100 cities and towns. The smaller places range from 17th-century villages (Plymouth) to some of the oldest suburbs in America (Brookline and Braintree). Many area towns were built in the 18th century and most feature central squares surrounded by small businesses and residential neighborhoods.

In 2011, Boston was ranked the fifth most literate big city in the United States, and a high share of area residents have a college degree.

The city's parks are big and exceptionally good, with several designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard is one of the finest in the world. The Massachusetts Audubon Society's Boston Nature Center has opened on the grounds of the old Boston State Hospital. The metro area also offers nearly 120 miles of Atlantic coastline and lots of dedicated bike paths.

Locals bond over sports: The Red Sox and New England Patriots have become regular contenders; the Celtics are synonymous with Boston hoops tradition; and the Bruins have the second-most Stanley Cup victories by a U.S. team in NHL history.

Massachusetts is a great place to be retired from a government job or the military because most payments from public pensions are exempt from state taxes. And metro Boston is a major center of medical talent, with a very high concentration of physicians, hospital beds per capita and teaching hospitals. Rates of smoking and obesity are low, so the metro area has low mortality from heart disease and low rates of hypertension.

Because traffic congestion is a serious problem in the city, many locals use the region's excellent subway system or walk or bicycle to work. Boston's coastal location means it does get severe storms, including nor'easters, blizzards and the occasional hurricane. That's when it's time to curl up on the couch with that special someone and watch the weather roll in.


Baltimore doesn't make a lot of top 10 lists, overshadowed as it is by the powerhouses of the Northeast Corridor. But once you experience the easy pace, historic neighborhoods and waterfront establishments, you'll get Baltimore's nickname: Charm City.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- a restaurant in Baltimore, MD

Spike Gjerde, right, serves an order of shrimp toast in his flagship restaurant Woodberry. — Getty Images

For older singles, the inclusiveness is evident in the corner pubs, the walkable streets of Federal Hill, Charles Village and Fells Point, and the lively Cross Street Market. Baltimore is a city of natives, a place with a sense of community that spans generations.

Most of the Baltimore metro area (population 2.7 million) is located on the west shore of Chesapeake Bay and stretches north to the Pennsylvania state line, embracing hundreds of distinct neighborhoods. Twenty-five miles south is the picturesque town of Annapolis, the capital of Maryland and one of the sailing capitals of the East Coast.

The region has a profusion of world-class parks, including 19th-century gems in the Mount Vernon Place neighborhood that are fiercely guarded by a local nonprofit. Fresh, locally grown food is easy to find at dozens of public markets. Some, including the Cross Street and Lexington markets, are open year-round.

Unemployment in Baltimore City was 10 percent in April 2012, above the national average. But a high share of the population has a college degree, and there are nearly two dozen degree-granting institutions in the metro area, including such highly ranked colleges as Johns Hopkins University (enrollment 19,000) and two campuses of the University of Maryland. Johns Hopkins and Towson University both operate Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes.

Metro Baltimore features top-quality cultural institutions, including the world-famous Peabody Institute and the Walters Art Museum. This is heaven for boaters, with marinas dotting the hundreds of miles of coastline along Chesapeake Bay and the Patapsco River.

Baltimore is a major center for medical talent, with a high concentration of physicians and specialists; the teaching hospital at Johns Hopkins is one of the best in the country.

Baltimore's major downside is the entrenched poverty portrayed so well in the HBO series "The Wire." Gangs give the metro area a very high rate of violent crime, and poverty contributes to a high rate of mortality from cancer and heart disease. Property crime rates are much lower — near the national average.

Also, traffic congestion is bad, as are ozone levels in the air, according to the American Lung Association. But relief often awaits along the breezy waterfront, which is a relaxing place to sit anytime, just to see who strolls by.

Minneapolis-St. Paul

Before you dismiss being steered toward the frozen tundra of Minnesota, consider this: Minnesotans are some of the friendliest people you'll find anywhere, and the cities they call home offer a surprisingly eclectic mix of date-friendly ways to spend time.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- a clothing boutique in Minneapolis, MN

A woman checks inventory in a clothing boutique in Minneapolis. — Corbis

The Minnesota Orchestra is regularly mentioned among the best symphonies in the world. The Guthrie Theater's blue building on the riverfront heads up a list of theater companies and art museums so impressive that Minneapolis was recently included in a "where to go next" list by Travel and Leisure, right next to Rome and Montenegro.

OK, so there's another side: Minneapolis-St. Paul at one point led the nation in per capita consumption of Cool Whip. But a high share of metro residents have a college degree, and the Twin Cities have finished first or second in a ranking of America's Most Literate Cities several times. The University of Minnesota (enrollment 52,557) dominates higher education in the region, but the area has three-dozen degree-granting institutions and an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

If you're looking for companionship over something other than Cool Whip, St. Paul has a burgeoning restaurant scene, anchored by a handful of excellent ethnic eateries.

One reason for the general good vibes in and around MSP is the accessible parkland, including lakes, rivers, trails and some of the most pristine wilderness in the United States.

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, 50 miles northwest of the Minneapolis, has hiking and Nordic ski trails from which you can watch dozens of bird species and other wildlife. Numerous lakes within a two-hour drive offer fishing, trails, small beaches and boat ramps. And not much farther afield is the vast wilderness of Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters canoe area.

In town, Minneapolis has more parkland per 1,000 residents than any other large city in the country — 180 parks in all — along with a connected chain of lakes and the Grand Rounds, a 50-mile loop of trails, paths and roadways around the city.

If you like to mingle over a good cause, more than four in 10 residents here do volunteer work.

The Twin Cities have one of the country's lowest rates of death from heart disease. A large percentage of residents exercise regularly, and similarly high numbers don't smoke. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently ranked Minnesota first in the United States for the overall quality of its health care.

So: Happy, healthy, active residents in a vibrant city. Easy to meet like-minded singles in that setting!

St. Louis

Two hundred years ago, St. Louis was the last place Lewis and Clark could buy gunpowder before paddling into the Wild West. Today, it has grown into the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country. But while it's matured, the city still has a wild edge reminiscent of the frontier days.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- an independent bookstore in St. Louis, MO

Pan Wennerberg sets books in the window at Left Bank Books in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. — Getty Images

St. Louis contains more than six dozen neighborhoods, each with its own character. Some are more conducive to mingling than others.

The Central West End is home to galleries and antiques shops, sidewalk cafes and bars.

As the website Explore St. Louis says, the neighborhood is "a little European, a little New York and totally St. Louis." It also boasts the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, which has the world's largest collection of mosaic art.

The St. Louis metro area (population 2.8 million) includes eight counties in Missouri and eight in Illinois. Lots of nice suburbs lie to the north and west in St. Charles County: three of these, St. Peters (55,000), O'Fallon (75,000) and St. Charles (64,000), made the list of best 100 small cities in a 2008 study by Money magazine.

St. Louis is one of America's "most livable communities," according to Partners for Livable Communities, with lots of walkable places. The American Planning Association recently honored the Delmar Loop in University City as one of the 10 Great Streets in America, and the warehouse buildings downtown have recently been remade into glitzy residential lofts. There are also village-style developments out in the suburbs, such as WingHaven in O'Fallon, New Town at St. Charles and Park Plaza in Edwardsville, Ill.

The metro has more than 30 degree-granting institutions, including several community college campuses and seven schools with enrollments of more than 10,000. Washington University and Webster University are private colleges; the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville are public; and Saint Louis University is a Jesuit college.

Nature lovers bask in the city's 105 parks. The jewel of the system is Forest Park, the 1,293-acre site of the 1904 World's Fair and now home to the city's sublime zoo and first-class museums of art, history and science. Forest Park also harbors the Municipal Opera, golf courses, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and facilities for bicycling, boating, fishing, handball, ice skating and more.

Powell Hall, home of the renowned St. Louis Symphony, is a few blocks away from Forest Park. The neoclassical Central Library building anchors a large library system. And Union Station, built in 1892, reopened in 1985 as a hotel, shopping and entertainment complex, and is now a major attraction.

Downsides include bad air pollution and humid summers. But a mug of local beer in an air-conditioned bar or sidewalk cafe can ease both of those ills.

New York

New York is the rare city where you can safely say that, no matter what your interests, background or age, there is probably someone — or, really many someones — for you somewhere in that urban soup.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- a ferry circling New York City

Enjoy a fun ferry ride circling Manhattan. — Aurora Photos

From the artsy to the outdoorsy and everything in between, the nearly 8.2 million residents of the city's five boroughs cover the gamut of possible personal profiles. All that's required is a willingness to interact, and of course the financial means to stay afloat in one of the country's most expensive metro areas.

But while New York is a capital of international trade and finance, it also is the place where you can take a $2.50 subway ride to the Metropolitan Opera or Yankee Stadium, then head into Greenwich Village for the best Italian meal this side of the Atlantic, then catch a live comedy or jazz set at a world-renowned club and still have numerous options for where to go next.

Want cultural diversity? New York offers close to 300 neighborhoods within 59 community districts. One study estimated that 138 languages are spoken in the borough of Queens alone.

New York can be affordable for middle-class folks — if you are willing to trade off space for location. Yes, neighborhoods such as SoHo, Central Park West and Park Avenue are prohibitively expensive, but affordable apartments can be found in such places as Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park in Brooklyn. Many sections of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx have easy access to green space, great restaurants, bay views, friendly neighbors and the subway, which has chaperoned more chance encounters-turned-romances than many entire cities.

Once known as gritty and dangerous, the subway, like the city itself, has grown much safer in recent decades: The metropolitan area is in the lowest one-third of the United States for violent crime, with even lower rates of property crime.

The New York metro area also has one of the nation's highest concentrations of physicians and teaching hospitals. And New York is serious about going green: The League of American Bicyclists has honored the city's bike paths, and the U.S. Department of Energy has recognized New York for promoting solar energy. The Big Apple is also home to half a million students attending 110 higher education institutions, including several with lifelong learning centers for older students.

The biggest issue for people considering a move here: Can you handle the nearly endless buzz of one of the world's most vibrant cities? If yes, you'll have trouble running out of things to do and people to meet here.


Consider this: The "older singles" section of the online dating site for Cleveland contains more than 250 pages of personal ads. And that's only one marker of the possibilities for finding love and companionship in the self-anointed Rock 'n' Roll Capital of the World.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- a turn-of-the-century mall in Cleveland, Ohio

Date idea: Visit a turn-of-the-century mall in Cleveland. — Getty Images

Cleveland's appeal goes well beyond the renowned Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the arcing beaches of Lake Erie. The copper-roofed clock tower of the West Side Market stands sentry over 100 stalls selling all manner of fresh food. The market dates to 1840 and earned designation as one of the American Planning Association's 10 great public spaces.

The Cleveland metropolitan area (population 2.1 million) stretches across 80 miles of Lake Erie shoreline and reaches southward into five counties. In addition to Cleveland, there are six cities with more than 50,000 residents (Parma, Lorain, Lakewood, Elyria, Euclid and Mentor). Beachwood (12,000), a suburb in eastern Cuyahoga County, is a haven for older residents, with 32 percent age 65 or older, compared with a national average of 13 percent. The village has award-winning schools, two large senior centers, an elaborate public pool and the glitzy Legacy Village mall.

The industrial barons who built Cleveland endowed superb arts and cultural institutions that endure. Downtown's Playhouse Square claims to be second-largest theater complex in the United States, and the metro area has over a dozen theatrical, ballet and dance companies. In addition to the famous Cleveland Orchestra, the city also maintains an opera and a pops orchestra.

Want to tap Cleveland's rock roots? Live music abounds at the town's many bars. If that's too tame, check out the Cleveland-style (Slovenian) polka on the first floor of Euclid's old City Hall. The Greater Cleveland Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame and Museum is on the second floor.

Locals embrace the mostly hapless pro sports teams, and outdoors lovers can choose from golf courses, Great Lakes sailing, hiking and biking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the (much cleaner these days) Cuyahoga River.

Education is top-tier here, from the public Cleveland State University to a slate of private colleges that includes Oberlin College (35 miles away) and Case Western Reserve University, which also boasts an excellent medical school. The other big local name in health care, Cleveland Clinic, ranks near the best in the country for heart surgery.

Unemployment (9.1 percent in April 2012) is above the national average, but not as bad as in many cities. And older singles who don't need jobs have that much more time to peruse those online personal ads.


Philly is so much more than the cradle of America's democracy. It's a city of progressive neighborhoods, brotherly love, strident opinions and mouth-watering cuisine ranging from haute to hot. It's also a place with ample culture, accessible natural attractions and an outgoing, engaging populace.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- trendy bars in Philadelphia

Enjoy South Street in Philadelphia, an area of boutiques, trendy clubs and bars. — Corbis

The city anchors one of the oldest metro areas in America (founded 1682) and the fifth biggest, with a population of nearly 4 million. Philadelphia (population 1.53 million) was settled and still sits where the Schuylkill River enters the Delaware River.

Icebreaking opportunities for first dates here are extensive: Philly's impressive cultural institutions include the Pennsylvania Ballet, the 42-acre Philadelphia Zoo (founded 1859), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (more than 225,000 objects in a majestic Greek Revival temple ) and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed. The Philadelphia Orchestra, which performs at the 2,500-seat Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, is considered by many critics to be one of the best in the world.

Philadelphians are proud of their neighborhoods  — from South Philly and Society Hill to Fishtown, Germantown and Manayunk  — and proud of their local institutions. At the Reading Terminal Market in Center City, locals have jostled since 1892 for fresh meats, vegetables and fancy foods sold by Amish farmers and chocolatiers.

For the iconic Philadelphia cheesesteak, some locals swear by Rick's Steaks. Rick is the grandson of Pat Olivieri, who invented the sandwich with his brother in about 1930. Others are loyal to Pat's King of Steaks, in South Philly, or Geno's Steaks across the street, or some other neighborhood joint. The only way to decide for yourself is to try them all.

Philadelphia's ample outdoor spaces include Fairmount Park, a 9,200-acre system of green space; the Schuylkill River Trail, which extends almost 25 miles from Center City; Scott Arboretum, on the campus of Swarthmore College; and Longwood Gardens, a former du Pont estate that sprawls over more than 1,000 acres in Kennett Square. The city is also a mere hour's drive from the beaches of the Jersey Shore.

Philadelphia has a high concentration of doctors, specialists and teaching hospitals. Overall, Philadelphians are of average health, but they have an unusually high death rate from cancer — possibly connected to the metro area's horrendous air pollution. Philadelphia is also challenging for allergy sufferers, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The violent crime rate is very high, and property crime here is just above the national average. But the tide is turning: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is fueling Philadelphia Green, which turns down-market vacant lots into green spaces. The group worked with locals on the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, transforming blight into the Las Parcelas garden and community kitchen.


Perhaps as much as any city in the United States, Pittsburgh has leapfrogged into the 21st century, remaking itself from a dying, dirty steel town to a lively, clean beacon of the new economy, awash in cutting-edge culture, dining and entertainment. But enough vestiges of the old days remain, including iconic bridges and signature buildings, to make Pittsburgh feel pleasantly gritty.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- a park overlooking Pittsburgh, PA

West End Overlook, a small park and scenic viewpoint in Pittsburgh. — Getty Images

The only downside for older singles is that the city proper is getting younger — the percentage of the population age 65 and older dropped to 13.8 percent in the 2010 census. But at 16.8 percent, Allegheny County remains among the top in the country for percentage of seniors over age 65.

In the new 'Burgh, you can enjoy a fine meal of locally sourced ingredients at Douglass Dick's Bona Terra restaurant, drink award-winning craft beer at the Church Brew Works, and take in the ballet at the Benedum Center or an art-house movie at the Harris Theater. Or you could have a Primanti Brothers sandwich topped with fries before hitting Jack's Bar on the Southside for $1.25 beer specials — and possible off-the-ice sightings of Penguins hockey players.

Pittsburgh's economy has successfully diversified to include biotechnology, health care and software. The new Pittsburgh is smarter and cleaner. Indeed, you can once again catch fish in the Monongahela River.

Unemployment is much lower than the national average; likewise, the foreclosure rate is among the lowest in the country. Pennsylvania is also a prime place to live on a pension: All money withdrawn from pensions is exempt from state taxes.

Several large research universities have helped drive Pittsburgh forward. Chief among these are Carnegie Mellon University (enrollment 12,000) and Duquesne University ( 10,300), which — along with the University of Pittsburgh's main campus ( 28,766 ) — have spun off businesses from their research contracts.

Pittsburgh also claims a rich tradition of philanthropy: Andrew Carnegie lived (and gave) here, and today the Heinz family maintains a $1.7 billion foundation focused exclusively on southwest Pennsylvania. Allegheny County's libraries function as crucial community centers. Those libraries, represented by the Allegheny County Library Association, recently joined with AARP and the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield PALS (People Able to Lend Support) program to organize walking groups for adults age 50-plus.

The region has above-average outdoor recreation — mountains, rivers and trails abound — and below-average rates of cancer, heart disease and other chronic health problems. Despite all the change, residents still abide by a sense of community drawn from their immigrant roots, and that makes for an inviting place to be regardless of your relationship status.


Milwaukee is like Philadelphia with some of the rough edges sanded down — a manageably sized city populated by fun-loving locals, with a dollop of Midwestern wholesomeness stirred in for good measure. But Milwaukee isn't lacking excitement: The city has matured nicely since the days when breweries and manufacturing ruled, with smart riverfront development and a slate of things to do to quench most tastes.

AARP recommends ten cities where older singles can retire- a museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Grohmann Museum at the Milwaukee School of Engineering is home to the world's most comprehensive art collection dedicated to the evolution of human work. — Corbis

Milwaukee is a collection of villages. A historic district packed with trendy shops and cafes on Brady Street is just a few miles south of Harambee, an up-and-coming African American neighborhood whose name means "let's all pull together" in Swahili.

Once the sun sets, older singles tend to steer away from the youthful exuberance of downtown for more, um, demographically friendly venues like Kiko's on West Bluemound Road, where live bands fuel the dancing on weekends, or one of the dozens of corner bars dotting Milwaukee's neighborhoods.

This metro area of 1.75 million covers four counties in southeastern Wisconsin. The center of Milwaukee (population 594,833) hugs Lake Michigan about 80 miles north of Chicago. As the local economy has been forced to relinquish its reliance on manufacturing, most job growth now occurs in services and health care.

Thanks to its excellent public schools and unusually large number of higher educational institutions, Milwaukee enjoys a well-educated labor force. The largest schools are the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (enrollment 30,000) and Marquette University (11,000). The city also has a large and well-funded public library system.

Milwaukee County's Grand Necklace of Parks, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, has grown to encompass 15,000 acres, linked in a chain by the 108-mile Oak Leaf Trail.

The extensive local and regional transit systems offer connections to Chicago and Minneapolis. The many miles of Lake Michigan coastline provide oodles of recreation opportunities.

Milwaukee's French and German heritage helps explain its tradition of supporting classical music. A Beethoven Society was founded even before the city was incorporated, and the local symphony maintains an active schedule. The city has a large theater district and multiple museums, including the striking wing-shaped Milwaukee Art Museum (designed by Santiago Calatrava) and Harley-Davidson Museum.

The concentration of physicians and specialists is high, but so are rates of obesity and diabetes. But the people here are comfortable with themselves, and that makes it easy to find good conversation and dance partners.


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