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Best Places to Retire 2012

10 Great Places to Retire for the City Life

Nightlife, culture and an always lively scene make these cities exciting places to retire

San Francisco, California is one of the AARP ten best cities where to retire

Relax and enjoy the sites near the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. — Getty Images

San Francisco

If you like your cities with an irrepressibly natural hue put San Francisco atop your list of places to retire. Whether you are strolling the wharfs, huffing up one of the city's vertiginous hills, cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge or even driving down Interstate 280, San Fran's natural beauty shines.

See also: Best places to retire abroad.
San Francisco is in the top 10 metro areas for population density, with over 800,000 people packed into a central city the size of Disney World. The metro area —-1.7 million total — includes San Francisco and San Mateo counties, which occupy the tip of a peninsula bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay and the Dumbarton Bridge to the south; and Marin County, north of the Golden Gate.

As for sunny, San Francisco boasts 146 completely clear days per year but has oodles of partly sunny days to complement average monthly high temperatures that float from the mid 60s in winter to the high 70s in summer.

San Francisco has been a major port for 160 years and has experienced steady ethnic and cultural mixing throughout its history. No wonder that the city boasts a remarkably diverse and tolerant population, with a strong gay and lesbian community and more than 100 distinct neighborhoods. These include world-famous tourist destinations (Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf) to residential neighborhoods that range from very rich (Pacific Heights) to gentrifying former slums (Bayview-Hunters Point) to cultural enclaves (North Beach for beatniks, Haight-Ashbury for hippies, the Castro for gays).

S.F. is well known for its eccentricities, but it is also a high-functioning city. Foreign Policy magazine ranked San Francisco as the world's 12th most-important city. San Francisco also ranked ninth on the 2011 list of most literate big cities in America. 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 is home to several major universities. The general studies option is San Francisco State University, which has an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for older learners. 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 aged 65 and older, and the age-adjusted health status of that population is among the best in the United States.

The metro area has the lowest average body-mass index (a measure of obesity) in the country and a low rate of diabetes. The rate of violent crime is fairly high in San Francisco, but it is heavily concentrated in certain neighborhoods. Earthquakes are a concern but big ones are rare. And those hills can come in handy: As someone once said, when you get tired of walking around in this city, you can always lean against it.

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