November 15, 2013 at 9:30 am CST

I know what you’re thinking. A top retirement city list with no cities in Florida or Arizona? For real?

Yes. For real. Here’s why.

First off, if a warm climate and 365 days of golf-friendly weather a year are your top priority, you pretty much already know where you’re going to be spending your retirement years, and we have a number of great cities in Florida and Arizona on our Top 100 Best Places to Live .

This might be a definition of retirement for some people, but it’s not the only one. Photo: Matt Carmichael

More importantly, the entire notion of retirement is changing for many. We’ll talk about that more next week with Bill Ness, the founder of . Americans are living longer. They’re staying active longer. They’re retiring later, if at all. For some that’s a choice – they like what they’re doing and are able to continue doing it. For others, it’s a necessity. The recession hit and housing bubble burst at just the wrong time for many on the cusp of retirement. Their houses, in which much of their nest eggs were invested, suddenly were worth a lot less. Selling and moving became less of a reality. And of course, there’s the grandkid equation. In researching my book, Buyographics , I spent some time in Lake County, Florida, home to several retirement communities including a portion of the nation’s largest – the Villages. As I toured with a realtor, she told me about how many seniors move down that way, settle into their 55-plus communities, and then leave because they feel isolated from their families back home. That turnover, she told me, is what keeps the real estate market going.

If seniors are retiring-in-place, that doesn’t necessarily mean in exactly the house they raised their kids in. Many are moving to smaller homes, condos, or places less on the suburban fringe where they can have easier access to goods and services. In some cases, that means moving to smaller towns, which often have a slower tempo than big-city counter parts. Towns like this – and like those on our list – still have everything seniors need, plus a lower cost of living.

Cost of living is a key concern for seniors, according to our exclusive livability survey conducted for us by Ipsos Public Affairs. We worked with the Martin Prosperity Institute to crunch the results, and the findings were surprising. There was less variation in the definition of “livable” between groups as you might think.

Housing and economic issues were key for everyone. As you’d expect, the older populations were slightly more concerned about having access to good and affordable health care and slightly less concerned about quality schools. Climate was equally important to all age groups – important, but less so than crime rates and economic issues. Walkability mattered more than access to public transportation, but mattered just as much to seniors as to Millennials.

We took all of that data into consideration as we crafted this list. The resulting cities scored well on what seniors told us mattered most: health care, cost of living, access to amenities, walkability – and yes, we factored in golf courses and climate, too.

Maybe Syracuse is too cold for you, or Baton Rouge too humid, or St. Louis too big. Not every city is a best place for everyone, but if you’re considering retiring some place other than in-place, one of these Top 10 Best Places to Retire might just be perfect.

This was originally posted on, home of the Top 100 Best Places to Live rankings. Copyright Journal Communications Inc. Reprinted with permission.