If you’re looking for love, these spots might be where to find it
By: Stacey Freed, AARP
You can find lots of lists of the best places to retire, often based on the quality of health care or low cost of living. But if you’re single and over 50, you might also want to know which cities may boost your chances of finding a partner or just be more conducive to dating.
Places that offer older adults more opportunities to find someone to share a meal, snuggle up, take in the sites, go dancing, stroll or have a cocktail may rate higher for those who are single and looking to make connections. While some of these activities are on hold due to the pandemic, the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine makes their resumption imminent.
“In many cities, there may be a lot of people aging in place, but with no place to meet each other,” says Pepper Schwartz, a social psychologist, professor and host of Lifetime’s Married at First Sight. “What you’re looking for are cities or towns that have both population and opportunity.”
Ryan Frederick, founder of SmartLiving 360, a real estate development advisory firm that works with entities across the country and author of Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Your Life, to be published later this year, says a good way to find the places with opportunities is to “look for areas that are growing and follow the millennials and Gen Zers. Where they are is not a bad spot for older folks because they tend to live where the economy is growing, where the cost of living may be more reasonable.”
Those younger generations are building families, starting companies and creating an optimism that tends to be infectious. But it’s important to look beyond data, too — while the number of seniors concentrated in a particular city might mean a larger dating pool, a place where a high percentage of the overall population is older “might not be as dynamic,” Frederick says.
To spotlight some of these cities, we examined livability scores from AARP and the number of older adults living there, examined city sizes and locations, and took into consideration access to health care and amenities to satisfy the needs of those 50-plus. In this list, “adults” refers to people over 18 and “seniors” refers to people 65 and older.
Though this list is a good place to start, choices are based on individual interests and circumstances: Consider your own lifestyle and what you like to do in order to meet the kind of person you’d date. Do you prefer big city lights or the small-town life? Do you hike, run, bowl, knit, watch films? Keeping all that in mind, here are 10 great places for older singles (listed by highest to lowest senior population):
1. New York City, New York
Population: 6,677,140 adults; 1,189,360 seniors
Possibly a cliché, but the amazingly diverse Big Apple truly has everything — walkability, public transportation, cultural venues, sports events, street festivals. “It’s full of places to congregate,” Schwartz says, and “there is a culture of getting out and about rather than being in your apartment.”
AARP’s Livability Score
This score rates the overall livability of a selected neighborhood, city, county or state on a scale from 0 to 100. It is based on the average score of seven livability categories — housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement and opportunity — which also range from 0 to 100. We score communities by comparing them to one another, so the average community gets a score of 50, while above-average communities score higher and below-average communities score lower.
And, according to AARP’s livability index, New York ranks in the top 30 cities in the nation and “has 59 initiatives devoted to improving the living standards of its older residents” including initiatives to increase healthy and affordable housing options, the number of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, caregiver support and to improve transportation. There’s also the Age-Friendly Neighborhoods Initiative with information on health services, cost of living, transportation options, as well as an interactive map of neighborhoods and what they offer.
2. Denver, Colorado
Population: 553,616 adults; 78,751 seniors
Denver gets high marks in access to and quality of health care, preventive health care, as well as transportation. It also has 245 sunny days a year. The Mile High city is known as a place for those pursuing an active outdoor lifestyle, but there are plenty of museums, music venues (including a symphony), restaurants and opportunities to catch pro sports. There are also several suburbs known for their large number of retirees.
3. Austin, Texas
Population: 741,176 adults; 81,322 seniors
“This is one of fastest growing places for younger people and also has one of the fastest growing 55-plus populations,” Frederick says. And, because it’s both a state capital and a university town, “there’s a vibrancy here.” There’s no shortage of great restaurants, places to hike and bike, music venues and, of course, weirdness. (The city’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird.”) Frederick adds that there are no state taxes, “and although there may be high real estate taxes, if you’re renting you might not notice.” The city has an age-friendly action plan, as well as places for people to connect such as AustinUp.org.
4. The Villages, Florida
Population: 77,115 adults; 61,889 seniors
The Villages is a master-planned age-restricted community. It’s located in central Florida, about an hour north of Orlando. “There are a gazillion activities going on here 24-7. A thousand clubs — golf, volleyball, pickleball, painting rocks, a ukulele club … it seems like every village has a singles club,” says Christine Martin, 59, a software developer for a company in New Jersey, who moved to the Villages in March 2020. “Even during the pandemic there are things to do.” She met a great group of women friends in a singles group. She also joined a bowling league and met a guy who recently moved there, too. “He’s handy and he helped me install cabinet hardware,” Martin says. “It’s nothing serious, but who knows? … I wasn’t looking for anything, and they say that’s how it always happens.”
5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Population: 257,595 adults; 44,183 seniors
SeniorAdvice.com calls Pittsburgh a “notoriously senior-friendly town.” Located in Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh boasts affordable housing and plenty of museums, golf courses (125 of them), gyms, movie theaters, walkable neighborhoods, lots of great city parks and free public transit for older adults. There are myriad hiking and biking trails outside the city. And if you’re looking for companionship (and more) there are several singles social groups for those 50 and over listed on meetup.com. (Meetup is an online service where groups can post in-person and virtual events for people with similar interests.)
6. Sun City, Arizona
Population: 39,952 adults; 29,880 seniors
Technically, Sun City is not a city but a retirement community in Maricopa County (in the Phoenix metro area). But if you’re looking to meet people who were old enough to stay up to watch the moon landing, then this is a good spot. There are a lot of outdoor activities in and around the 21 square miles of Sun City, where the sky is mostly clear year round and the temperature ranges from 43-106 degrees. Within the community, there’s the singles social club, which schedules potlucks, game nights, billiards and golf get-togethers. There’s bowling, jewelry-making and pickleball — every kind of club you can imagine.
7. Madison, Wisconsin
Population: 210,210 adults; 28,516 seniors
Money magazine recently named Madison the No. 1 place to retire in America. The college town, located between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, is not just affordable — it has bustling restaurants, great natural sights along the lake shore, an orchestra, contemporary art museum, cultural events and 38 retirement communities. The university allows residents over 60 to audit courses for free.
ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
8. Arlington, Virginia
Population: 191,897 adults; 24,465 seniors
Actually Arlington, Virginia, is a county and not a city — the smallest county by land size, about 26 square miles, in the United States. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in places to go and things to do. With Washington, D.C., in its backyard, Arlington has access to world class restaurants, theater, music, museums and sporting events. Travel by bus and Metro is easy. There’s kayaking on the Potomac, biking on the C&O Canal towpath and through Rock Creek Park and hiking trails all around. There are dozens of meetup.com groups for people of every sexual orientation interested in everything from travel and camping to board games, religious activities, bowling, running, dancing, tennis, philosophy and more.
9. Springfield, Massachusetts
Population: 115,511 adults; 18,992 seniors
Only 90 minutes from Boston and a half hour from Hartford, Connecticut, Springfield makes both U.S. News and World Report‘s lists of best places to live and to retire. There is cultural and university life, and the cost of living is relatively affordable compared to other East Coast metro areas. As in every city, meetup.com offers lots of opportunities for senior singles to connect.
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10. Palm Springs, California
Population: 41,654 adults; 14,790 seniors
Not just Palm Springs but “the whole Coachella Valley” is a great place for singles, Schwartz says. She cites the beautiful weather, lots of outdoor activities and places to go for dinner and drinks. “On Friday and Saturday nights a lot of people are out dancing at the Nest. It’s hot.”
Located about a two-hour drive west of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is a great place to be active with its more than 100 golf courses and walking and hiking trails, as well as museums, street fairs, festivals and shopping.