As recently as the 1980s, St. Petersburg was sometimes derisively referred to as “God’s Waiting Room,” because of the high percentage of residents past retirement age. Even Johnny Carson used to make sniggering jokes about the city and its predominantly elderly population, sitting idly on green benches, riding the bus and playing shuffleboard.
Fast forward to the present day, and the Tampa Bay area is bustling and alive with business, culture and innovation. The population demographics have shifted, too, and the Tampa Bay area – and St. Pete is officially part of that political and societal designation – is now a bona fide destination for people of all ages and occupations.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. In a survey published this week, the website 55places.com names the Tampa Bay area – Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater – as the “Best Place to Retire in 2018.”
It says so right there on 55places.com: Whether you’re looking for warm weather, affordability, or access to necessities, the Tampa Bay area has it.
The website, which bills itself as “the number one resource for active adult communities,” analyzed the cost of living, geographical landmarks, property taxes, economic opportunities, tax breaks available to seniors, access to area amenities, attractions, conveniences, medical facilities and the overall quality of active adult communities.
In compiling its list of 20 retirement destinations, spread across 13 states, the Chicago-based 55places.com conducted a survey of 1,300 adults aged 55 and older. The company found 59.81 percent of respondents were “close” to buying a new home within 12 months and of all participants, 52.69 percent plan to live in Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina or Texas within the year.
The temperate weather, not surprisingly, was a factor in the ranking, as well as the beaches (we can leave the city of Tampa out of that part of the equation). But those surveyed also pointed to the cultural landmarks – museums, theaters and galleries – as well as the wide variety of dining and socializing options.
There were more practical concerns, of course, including the relatively low cost of living, the more than 40 “active adult” planned communities, and the exceptional healthcare options.
“We understand there are dozens of factors active adults consider when choosing a place to live,” said 55places.com founder and CEO Bill Ness, “and while there are areas that combine pleasant climates with lifestyle-choice flexibility, other components – like nearby medical facilities, property taxes, and economic opportunities – are important, too, and were examined when assessing this list.”
The 20 Best Places to Retire in 2018:
Tampa Bay, Florida
Sarasota-Bradenton Area, Florida
St. George, Utah
San Antonio, Texas
Daytona Beach, Florida
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Las Vegas, Nevada
Charlotte, North Carolina
Port St. Lucie, Florida
Greenville, South Carolina
Asheville-Hendersonville Area, North Carolina
Palm Springs, California
Sussex County, Delaware
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.