Experts name their top U.S. retirement destinations for 2021

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Florida may be sunny, but there are plenty of other areas around the country that are attractive to seniors

With winter rolling in and the pandemic still hanging around, many seniors are looking to find more ideal vistas to retire to. The hard part is finding a close-to-perfect fit and wading through the thousands of options available with niche retirement communities.

Coventry Direct, a company specializing in life insurance, analyzed over 2,600 55+ communities, assigning numerical values for factors like affordability, amenities, and security features. Out of that came an overall score for each community which Coventry used to determine the “top retirement communities” in the U.S.

Winners and losers

When ConsumerAffairs took a look at the raw data the analysts had to pore through, it was apparent that retirees simply can’t make a snap judgment when it comes to picking somewhere to move to. There’s the cost of housing, the contemporary wrinkle of being tech-friendly, and a countless number of amenities that seniors want to make sure are available to them to make their move worthwhile.

"One of the biggest takeaways from this project that we want to emphasize is that while many of the top-performing communities are located in traditional retirement locales like Florida, Arizona, and California, our analysis uncovered vibrant, high-quality communities teeming with the kinds of amenities that make life after 55 a dream throughout the country,” Josh Koebert, a research assistant for Coventry Direct told ConsumerAffairs.

“With a little research, most people should have no problem finding a 55+ community that checks all the right boxes for their lifestyle and geographic preferences."

Taking home the top spot in the survey was ‘The Villages’ -- a site US News & World Report called “Disney World for Adults.” Situated between Orlando and Ocala, Florida, the location was rated as the “best retirement community,” scoring 95.3 out of a possible 100 points. In second place is the 11,000-acre ‘Sun City West’ in Arizona, about 30 miles from Phoenix. It received a total score of 91. 

When it came to the illusion that all retirees wind up in Florida, the analysts did some myth-busting of their own. “Our rankings actually show that it is possible to find incredibly high-quality retirement living all across the nation,” they wrote. 

“Only three of the top ten communities were located in the Sunshine State, with just as many Arizona locations showing up at the top of the rankings. Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, and California also make appearances in the top 10.”

Full rankings

From top to bottom, here are how the top 25 stacked up overall:

1. The Villages (The Villages, FL)

2. Sun City West (Sun City West, AZ)

3. Sun City Anthem (Henderson, NV)

4. On Top of the World (Ocala, FL)

5. Sun City Palm Desert (Palm Desert, CA)

6. Robson Ranch (Denton, TX)

7. Canoa Ranch (Green Valley, AZ)

8. Sun City Hilton Head (Bluffton, SC)

9. Quail Creek (Green Valley, AZ)

10. Lely Resort (Naples, FL)

11. Heritage Village (Southbury, CT)

12. Bella Vista Village (Bella Vista, AR)

13. Lake Ashton (Lake Wales, FL)

14. Stonecrest (Summerfield, FL)

15. SaddleBrooke Ranch (Oracle, AZ)

16. Sun City Peachtree (Griffin, GA)

17. Green Valley Recreation (Green Valley, AZ)

18. Sun City Grand (Surprise, AZ)

19. Pelican Preserve (Fort Myers, FL)

20. Sun City Shadow Hills (Indio, CA)

21. Sun City Lincoln Hills (Lincoln, CA)

22. Timber Pines (Spring Hill, FL)

23. Tellico Village (Loudon, TN)

24. Oak Run (Ocala, FL)

25. Siena (Las Vegas, NV)

Amenities scores vary from community to community

When it comes to amenities, the researchers say seniors favor three import factors -- exercise and wellness, entertainment, and outdoor activities. In the overall amenities ranking, there were six communities that had perfect scores:

  • Sun City Anthem (Henderson, NV)

  • Sun City West    (Sun City West, AZ)    

  • Sun City Palm Desert    (Palm Desert, CA)

  • Laguna Woods Village (Laguna Woods, CA)

  • Heritage Village (Southbury, CT)    

  • The Villages (The Villages, FL)

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