Enter to win every day in CTNOW's 21 Days of Summer Giveaways. Click here to see today's prize.



Cold, hard fact: North offers more to retirees

A hefty tax burden, relatively high housing prices and long, brutal winters: Welcome to Minneapolis, the best city for seniors?

It's a head-scratcher, but a new study seems to suggest older Americans are looking for more than tax breaks and beaches as they decide where to hunker down for the golden years.

Access to health care facilities, cultural amenities and outdoor activities pushed Minneapolis to the top of a review of the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas by Sperling's Best Places. Commissioned by Bankers Life and Casualty Co.'s Center for a Secure Retirement, the Best U.S. Cities for Seniors 2011 ranked the metro areas based on weighted criteria that researchers deemed important to seniors, in this order: Health care, economy, health and longevity, social life, environment, spiritual life, housing, transportation and crime.

The rest of the top five were Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Denver.

Lured by downtown revitalization and proximity to their volunteer work, retirees Anne and Peter Heegaard left their suburban Minneapolis-area home a decade ago and bought a downtown town house.

A former investment firm executive, Peter now runs Urban Adventure (urbanadventuretwincities.org), a program he founded that draws groups of young business leaders together to work on urban problems.

The work — and the couple's three children and eight grandchildren — keep them rooted, though Peter, 75, admits the cold is a problem, particularly for seniors.

"We have a cabin up on Lake Superior, and I remember one particularly bad ice storm when I had to crawl to the garage to avoid a fall," he said. "The ice scares the hell out of people."

Realizing the list wasn't going to convince sun lovers to move north, Bankers Life officials say the survey was more about getting seniors to think about the important amenities for them.

Here are some examples of how winning cities execute some of the most important senior services, according to Sperling:

Health care: Indianapolis drew top marks here, including the number of physicians in specialties such as orthopedics and cardiology, strong patient reviews and abundant nursing homes.

If Indy's not your style, at least check out how your own local health providers (or the ones in a city you're eyeing for retirement) handle Medicare patients, suggests Jan Cullinane, co-author of "The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life." Cullinane said many seniors have recently discovered their physicians no longer accept new Medicare patients.

Transportation: San Francisco, with its extensive network of cable cars, subway and light rail, won this category. If your city isn't big enough for mass transit, check out local senior ride programs. Often, these are subsidized and can be cheaper than having a car.

Environment: Researchers said a city's number of sunny days, access to bodies of water and parks make a big impact on seniors' emotional and physical well being. San Francisco won here, too, but it's a highly personal category depending on your interests. If your city is a negative for you in this category, run the numbers on what it will cost over time to escape to better locales for vacations. This may be less important as old age approaches, but the study ranked it higher in importance than housing, transportation and crime.

Finally, Cullinane said, don't forget the intangibles. Cullinane, co-author Cathy Fitzgerald and another friend all moved, with their husbands, to a master planned community in Palm Coast, Fla., from Cincinnati.

"This community encourages walking and social activities, so we picked up our support group and brought it with us," she said.

Have a retirement question? Write to yourmoney@tribune.com

The top 10

The top 10 cities in the Best U.S. Cities for Seniors 2011, with percentage of residents 65 and over:

Minneapolis-St. Paul, 10.6%

Boston, 12.8%

Pittsburgh, 17.7%

Cleveland, 15.1%

Denver, 10.3%

Milwaukee, 12.8%

San Francisco, 14.7%

Portland, Ore., 11.6%

Kansas City, Mo., 11.9%

Newark, N.J., 12.7%

Download the report (pdf): tinyurl.com/6jaeg42

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
Related Content
  • Discovering Connecticut: Winsted, Norfolk Lure With Charm, History

    Discovering Connecticut: Winsted, Norfolk Lure With Charm, History

    Winsted and Norfolk (the locals pronounce it Nor-Fork), adjoining towns in the northern Litchfield Hills, aren't often spoken of in the same breath, but together provide for an outstanding Connecticut day trip adventure.

  • Manhattan's New Le District A Truly French Experience

    Manhattan's New Le District A Truly French Experience

    MANHATTAN — Like a beached luxury liner straight from Calais, a new French food hall, Le District, opened on the southern tip of Manhattan in early spring. It's come to offer buttery croissants, expensive charcuterie and sweet morsels in fancy tins to the office workers and tourists of downtown...

  • Van Gogh, Whistler's 'Mother' Exhibits Worth Road Trip To Williamstown

    Van Gogh, Whistler's 'Mother' Exhibits Worth Road Trip To Williamstown

    New England's No. 1 can't-miss museum road trip this summer is at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. Until Sept. 13, two blockbuster attractions will be on view at the same time in the art space in the northwestern corner of the Berkshires: 40 paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, and the...

  • Go Ape Latest Addition To Connecticut Zip Line Parks

    Go Ape Latest Addition To Connecticut Zip Line Parks

    Looking for a different type of summer fun? More and more families are learning the ropes at aerial adventure parks — destinations featuring zip lines, high wires, ropes courses and other adrenaline-rush-producing experiences.

  • Into The Woods: Six Great Connecticut Hikes

    Into The Woods: Six Great Connecticut Hikes

    At 5,543 square miles, Connecticut is the third smallest and fourth mostly densely populated state. But pick any town or city from Andover to Woodstock and chances are there is a land trust preserve, state park, town-owned open space or Connecticut Forest & Park Association "blue-blazed trail"...

  • Appalachian Trail Hikes In And Near Connecticut

    Appalachian Trail Hikes In And Near Connecticut

    The 2,189-mile-long Appalachian Trail follows virtually unbroken mountainous terrain from Georgia to Maine, passing through many states including New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts on the way. There is fine day-hiking with excellent views within easy driving distance of much of Connecticut.