Retire in Boston or in Naples, Florida?

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My husband is newly retired, and we’ve spent hours talking about where we might want to live after I retire in a few years. Our imagined scenarios are always changing.

But I’m clear on one thing: I do not want to buy a house in Naples, Florida, where a couple we know did recently. No offense to Naples, which has lots to recommend it – no shoveling! But the typical resident is 65 years old. In fact, Naples is older than the state of Florida, where retirement communities are so pervasive that they distinguish between the “young-old” (ages 60-75) and the “old-old” (over 75).

Boston, where my husband and I live now, couldn’t be more different. It is swarming with college students and young people, including his two sons and daughter-in-law. Boston’s young people work in rapidly changing industries like high-tech or environmental engineering, and I like it that way. Boston’s median age is 32 – half of Naples.

As I get closer to retiring and am faced with change, I think to myself, “Who wants to live in the midst of a bunch of old people like me?”

But that’s precisely what many retirees do. There are many examples of cities that have moved dramatically in the direction of one or the other extremes – Boston or Naples; Madison, Wisconsin, or Scottsdale, Arizona. The Wall Street Journal reported that new retirement communities are popping up in places that weren’t traditional resting places for snowbirds: retired baby boomers’ net migration to the Appalachian region where Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee converge has quadrupled since 2011.

This age segregation is a relatively new area of interest to demographers. Almost 60 percent of the neighborhoods and other subdivisions within U.S. counties have moderate or high levels of segregation, which is similar in degree to the level of segregation between the U.S. Hispanic and white populations, Richelle Winkler found in a 2013 study of federal Census data.

Age segregation also occurs in rural areas, as younger people leave for jobs and older people move in. In some rural parts of the Great Plains, Winkler writes, there are two times more seniors than young adults.

Retirees often flock to retirement communities to improve their social life. My 82-year-old mother lives in an Orlando-area retirement community with like-minded neighbors who enjoy the regularly scheduled parties, holiday dinners, and bridge sessions at the clubhouse.

But there are big downsides to relocating to older communities and losing connections with the young. Such decisions often mean moving away from family. Gerontologists say that when older people live apart, they are not well understood, fostering ageism. The positive models of more age-diverse communities, a British sociologist says, “create new bridging and bonding ties.”

Another danger for seniors is social isolation, especially as aging friends become ill or die and the survivors lose important personal bonds. My widowed, 90-something grandmother used to say, “All my friends are dead” – and this was literally true. Isolation can even be a killer, says James Lubben of Boston College’s Institute on Aging, because seniors who lack a social network are more likely to neglect their health. This impact on health “is on a par with smoking,” he said.

Of course, the young adults who live in neighborhoods that tilt toward older people can also be at a disadvantage. An older community may not view government services for low-income parents or day care facilities as a priority. The opposite might also be true in neighborhoods with larger young adult populations that might not provide senior centers and health facilities.

There are big tradeoffs when choosing between a Boston and a Naples. Prospective retirees contemplating a move should weigh them carefully.

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My son went to Babson College, outside of Boston so I spent a lot of time in Boston. We have had a second home in Naples since 1998. While Boston is clearly more metropolitan and age diverse, the decision between retiring in Boston or Naples is easy!!! Naples is perfect!!!! Great weather year round, great restaurants, great golf, great fishing, great healthcare, no traffic jams, very walkable if you live downtown and little crime. Real estate is expensive in both places so that is a wash.

Ellen Switkes

Kim, I suspect living costs are a big factor for retirees on low incomes. Cost of housing in Boston is higher than in rural parts of the country. Consider moving to San Francisco Bay area, weather is great, no snow, lively environment, but expensive housing.

Jay Carty

Naples, FL is certainly is a pleasant place to retire. However, it is not perfect. The traffic is a major issue during snow bird season. Before anyone relocates to another community, it is preferable to rent a home/condo for a season or two before you make your retirement location decision. Features that are enjoyable to one person may not be to another. Prudence suggests that you experience the new location before you make a major move.


All great points! Another one to recommend living in a diverse community is the intellectual stimulation brought on by new ideas, exposure to young people who think differently, the opportunities for seminars, talks and classes offered by a vibrant university that’s nearby. The ability to float between communities expands perspective and keeps the mind young.


Maybe Naples wasn’t the best contrast. Sarasota is a younger, vibrant community where many New Englanders are retiring, sometimes neighborhoods en masse from Up North. It is more “Boston-like.”

Lynn Feinman

I think this is a very narrow comparison, though it was possibly meant to be. There are cities and towns all over the country that are not rural (or isolated) where people may retire that are diverse and offer lower housing prices and lower cost-of-living than either Boston or Naples. I moved back to my hometown of Lynchburg VA from Newton, just outside Boston, two years ago. There are active religious, senior, college and arts communities, to name a few. There are also other cities within an hours drive that provide additional opportunities for education and entertainment. AARP’s annual list of the best places in the country to retire is a superb resource.

Bob Coulson

Well you are looking for…Paducah, Kentucky (actually it’s midway between Boston and Naples). Mild seasons, cosmopolitan, small town, easy going folks, vibrant arts and shows, very inexpensive living, two great hospitals, nice airport here flys to Chicago and then all points on, strong community giving, public transport, excellent recreation. A one hour drive to the epicenter for shopping, in about a two hour drive, you can be in big city…go to Nashville or St Louis. You feel safe here in Paducah and very few traffic issues. National quilt museum brings in crowds two times a year, Badgett Playhouse has great Branson type shows, Carson Center top shows and we have a symphony too. Lots of eateries: Freight House is top notch and Patti’s Settlement is a gem with great pork chops. Moved from Denver three years ago for work and decided to retire here…we love growing older here…good mix of civic-minded people, lots of volunteer opportunities and seniors can find work too, go to college for free ages 65 plus. Yep, Paducah, Kentucky…great place to retire and live well. We came for work, fell in love with it and the community spirit here and stayed. Now we can retire anywhere we want.

karen carr

I live in a 55 plus gated community in a town in northern california that has a junior and 4 year college. I am not lacking for the younger people but have the quiet and companionship of the people my age of 72.

Denise Hartman

You should consider looking at Florida’s east coast, North Palm Beach County in particular. We have a large diverse population in age and culture. Highly educated, with Nextera Energy corporate headquarters, United Technologies, Scripts Medical Research and others. FAU Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers an excellent lecture series all year long. Top notch hospitals, great beaches and many recreational amenities. Plays, festivals and the worlds most densely populated nesting turtle beach. More golf pros live here than anywhere. Our airport connections are better and we are somewhat shielded from hurricanes by the Bahamas. You will feel at home here judging by the Mass plates rolling into town each winter season. And the Bahamas brings cooling breezes during the hotter summer months. My grandfather started wintering here from Mass in the 30’s.


You should consider looking at Florida’s east coast, North Palm Beach County in particular. We have a large diverse population in age and culture. Highly educated, with NextEra Energy corporate headquarters.

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