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6 Places to Retire to Escape Extreme Heat

As temperatures rise in Florida and Arizona, other states may offer refuge from worst impacts of climate change

spinner image thermometer showing about one hundred degrees farenheit against a blazing hot summer sun and gold sky
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Phoenix spent July sweltering through a record run of 110-plus-degree days. In South Florida, ocean temperatures soared so high that taking a dip was almost like stepping into a hot tub.  

While retirees who’ve flocked to Florida and Arizona to spend their golden years in the sun have been enduring ever-greater heat, Ken Kahn is enjoying a relatively normal summer of temperatures in the mid-to-high 80s.

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That’s because when he and his wife, Joanne Kalp, relocated for retirement in 2018, they picked a place where they reckoned the effects of climate change would be less severe: Asheville, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Summer temperatures in Asheville typically average in the 80s, and the winters are mild. “There’s climate resilience here,” says Kahn, 71. “We don’t have the extreme weather yet.”

The Kahns’ choice could be a sign of things to come. With climate experts predicting that temperatures in traditional Sun Belt retirement meccas will become less tolerable in years to come, older Americans may want to look at cooler alternatives. 

“People might want to seriously rethink popular retirement destinations that are in hotter areas,” says Benjamin Strauss, CEO and chief scientist at Climate Central,  an organization that researches and shares information about climate change effects. 

Strauss says the scorching July of 2023 is just a hint of what it will be like in years ahead. “This summer is not just a one-time anomaly, and within a few decades, it might look like an average one, or even cool,” he warns.

For retirees, it’s not just a matter of sweaty discomfort: 

  • People age 65 and older are among the most vulnerable to heat-related illness and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Those in very hot locales face higher utility bills that can eat into fixed incomes, as well as soaring homeowner’s insurance costs due to the extreme weather events associated with climate change.
  • Being stuck inside air-conditioned homes can prevent older people from being active and mobile, notes Jesse M. Keenan, a professor of real estate and urban planning at Tulane University whose research focuses on adaptation to climate change.

“Over time, I think these factors are really going to add up, and motivate people to look elsewhere,” Keenan says.

It’s not just the heat

Where should retirees who want to avoid the heat consider going? “Many of the states in the north tend to have more moderate temperatures,” says Vivek Shandas, a geography professor at Portland State University in Oregon who specializes in the implications of climate change. He recommends that older adults concerned about the warming trend look at the belt of states stretching from New England through the upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest.

Triple-digit heat isn’t the only climate consideration for retirees weighing a move. 

“The recent flooding events in Vermont show that even areas perceived to be safe from disaster can be hit and hit hard,” says Benjamin Keys, an economist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who has studied climate impacts. “There’s no escaping the weather, but some areas will likely benefit from milder winters and relatively rare disaster events.”

Also, it’s important for a place with cooler weather to have other things older adults need. “As people explore other places, one major consideration should be access to health care,” Keenan says. “You can’t just move out in the middle of nowhere. You need proximity to the health system and specialists.” Housing prices are another factor to consider, as well as quality-of-life issues like cultural and recreational opportunities.

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Here are six states to consider if you’re seeking a retirement refuge from extreme hot weather.

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Augusta, Maine, skyline over the Kennebec River
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Maine has been affected by climate change — average temperatures have risen almost 3.5 degrees since the early 20th century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — but summers remain relatively cool, with the mercury topping 90 only a few days a year. Winters tend to be cold and snowy, but that doesn’t seem to deter older folks (proportionally, Maine has the country’s highest 65-plus population), and it could be a bonus if you’re into winter sports such as cross-country skiing. 

Why else to retire there: A landscape dense with mountains, lakes and forests, plus more coastline than California, provides ample opportunities for outdoor activity. Though above the national average, Maine’s cost of living is low by New England standards, and housing prices are below the national median.

City to consider: Augusta, the state capital, offers scenic views of sailboats on the Kennebec River and trails for biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There’s also the Viles Arboretum, a massive botanical garden and nature preserve that’s great for bird- and wildlife-watching.


Michigan is bounded by four of the five Great Lakes (Huron, Erie and Michigan border the Lower Peninsula; Superior, Huron and Michigan nearly encircle the Upper). All that water absorbs heat in the summer and releases it in the winter, helping to moderate Michigan’s climate and making it moister and more temperate than that of other Midwestern states — a big reason it’s the only northern state among the five most popular landing spots for retirees making interstate moves, according to U.S. Census data.

Why else to retire there: Michigan ranks 15th among states for low cost of living, according to the Missouri Economic and Research and Information Center (Florida and Arizona are 31st and 37th, respectively). Housing is affordable, with a median sale price of about $260,000 in June, compared to $425,000 nationally, according to Redfin. An assortment of small and midsize cities offer rich and varied cultural landscapes, and there’s all that lakeshore to play in

City to consider: Ranked No. 8 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2022-23 list of the best cities to retire in, Ann Arbor has all the amenities of a vibrant college town, including a historic 19th-century downtown, the University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine health care system and an expansive park network that earned it the nickname “Tree Town.”

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Sunrise over the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina
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North Carolina

The coastal region is vulnerable to hot weather, hurricanes and drought, according to NOAA’s profile of the state, but in western North Carolina, where the Blue Ridge elevation climbs to 6,000 feet, the annual average temperature is more than 20 degrees cooler.

Why else to retire there: Mountain vistas and renowned art and music scenes in the west; cultural, tech and academic centers with university-affiliated health care facilities in the Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill; low property taxes and a declining income tax rate statewide. 

City to consider: With a reputation as a haven for artists, writers and musicians and a mecca for craft beer aficionados, mountain-ringed Asheville landed at number 24 on U.S. News’ list of top retirement destinations and was rated the seventh most affordable place to retire. 

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If you don’t mind rain — portions of the Coast Range average more than 100 inches of precipitation a year, according to NOAA — western Oregon could make for an attractive climate refuge, with mild temperatures (thanks to the moderating effect of the Pacific) and an abundance of natural beauty.

Why else to retire there: Oregon is not cheap — a likely culprit for it being the state with the biggest outflow of older residents, according to moving-services marketplace Hire A Helper — but it’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. There’s no state sales tax, which can help ease the sting of high income tax rates.

City to consider: Nestled in the Willamette Valley between the Pacific and the Cascade Mountains, Eugene is close to ski resorts and wineries and popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts. It ranked 25th on the U.S. News list. 


Pennsylvania’s climate is moderated in the east by proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, and Lake Erie is a cooling influence in the northwestern part of the state, according to NOAA. Most years the state sees fewer than 20 days with high temperatures of 90 degrees or more. 

Why else to retire here: Access to top-notch health care from university-based hospitals and health systems, plenty of Colonial and Civil War history to explore, and a diverse landscape with mountains, rivers, verdant farmland and the buzzing urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

City to consider: Make that cities. Pennsylvania claimed half of the U.S. News top 10, with Lancaster at No. 1 followed by Harrisburg (2), York (5), Allentown (9) and Reading (10). Key reasons: affordable housing and residents reporting that they like where they live. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton also made the top 20, with the latter two among U.S. News’ five most affordable retirement spots. 

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Beartooth Highway in northwest Wyoming
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Far from the oceans and with a mean elevation of 6,700 feet (making it the second-highest state in the country), Wyoming maintains a relatively cool, semi-arid climate. The range of altitude, from a low point of 3,100 feet above sea level to a peak of 13,800 feet, does make for some wide temperature variation, but across most of the state, summer highs are a mild 75 to 89 degrees. Winter temperatures typically plunge well below freezing, though.

Why else to retire there: This is a destination suited for people who like a lot of wide-open spaces and outdoor recreation such as fishing and hiking. Affordability is another plus, with personal-finance sites WalletHub and Bankrate listing Wyoming among their top 10 states to retire in largely on that basis. Housing is cheap (the median home sale price in June was $235,000, according to Redfin), property taxes are low and there’s no state income tax.

City to consider: Situated near Yellowstone National Park, Cody offers spectacular natural scenery, outdoor activities and Old West attractions befitting its frontier history (it was founded by William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill). SmartAsset ranks it as the state’s top retirement destination, citing a low tax burden and higher per capita rates of medical facilities and recreation centers than most Wyoming towns.

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