We all want to live long and be healthy. As it turns out, where you choose to live in the second half of your life can make all the difference. So, exactly what makes a city healthy? In doing our research, combing through the government records of hundreds of cities for more than 20 measures of vitality, we looked not only at the physical aspects of a community (clean air and water, for instance) but also at the health and habits of the people who live there. The two are closely linked: if you live near a hiking-and-biking trail and all your neighbors use it, you’ll probably use it, too. If a farmers’ market is just down the street, you’re likely to eat more fruits and vegetables. If your city has multiple hospitals, there’s a good chance you’ll get superior medical care.
The winners? It’s not surprising that our list includes several college towns. Large universities often have teaching hospitals, which employ top doctors using the latest technology. In addition, college towns are full of young people, and younger residents often create a demand for lifestyle perks such as bike paths and accessible fitness programs, which benefit all members of a community.
Few southern towns made our list, despite the warm weather and the relaxed pace of life that have long attracted retirees. Research has consistently shown that cities in the South tend to have some of the highest rates of obesity and chronic disease in the nation. Of course, there are always anomalies—and thank goodness for that, since the thought of retiring to a colder climate may have little appeal for some. Balmy Naples, Florida, came out high on our list, as did Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
All demographic information provided by Bert Sperling of BestPlaces.net. For black-and-white reprints of this article, call 866-888-3723.