Only in New York

New York City as the worst place to retire? Not so fast.

By Emily Nonko  | June 15, 2015 - 8:59AM

Last week, the finance website released a list of the best and worst cities to retire to. A total of 172 cities were ranked using qualities like local weather, the cost of living, crime rate, health care quality, tax burdens, walkability and something called senior well-being — a measurement from the Gallap-Healthways Well-Being Index that ranks how happy residents 65 and older are with their surroundings. So where did NYC place? Dead last.

Although our fair city scored points for walkability and its variety of cultural activities, the extremely high cost of living and high tax burden, which can be difficult factors for senior citizens on a fixed budget, weighed heavily on its ranking. Weather, health care, and overall well being were all rated “below average.” (Top cities include several in Arizona — the Phoenix metro area, Prescott and Tucson — as well as Arlington, Virginia, Des Moines, Iowa, and Denver, Colorado.)

Still, “just because a city ranks at the bottom doesn’t mean it’s a bad place to spend your golden years,” mentions research and statistics analyst Chris Kahn in a statement. “Soon-to-be retirees should focus on what factors are most important to them and then consult rankings like this to see what cities best fit their criteria.”

Indeed, many retirees are still looking to New York as a place to settle. In fact, the city fared pretty well in the AARP's livability rankings last April. “I get calls every day from senior citizens who want to move here from around the world,” says Linda Hoffman, the president of the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens, who adds that many senior citizens come especially for the rich cultural opportunities in the city.  In Hoffman’s eyes, “It’s easy to live in New York City on a fixed income with the appropriate housing.”

The foundation, established in 1968, is in the business of helping senior citizens find housing in New York City, along with offering other services. A particularly popular program is a free house-share program, in which senior citizens moving to New York can “house share” with hosts for reduced living costs, as well as companionship.  The foundation also manages 10 subsidized rental buildings for seniors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, although Hoffman notes that there’s a long wait list for apartments. They also run a case management program, an affordable home-care program, a repair and home safety audit program, and free van services that will occasionally host the group shopping trip.

On top of all that, NYFSC runs three senior centers in Chinatown, Little Italy and Inwood. Senior centers offer meals, activities and fitness programs for anybody over the age of 60. And as Hoffman points out, there are more senior centers to be found in nearly every neighborhood of New York. “It’s electrifying to visit our centers,” she says, noting the strong community that’s formed there.

Hoffman also recommends that New York seniors take advantage of services offered by the NYC Department of the Aging, which runs senior centers and provides legal assistance, case management, transportation services and more. The department will also refer seniors to community organizations that do work with LGBT, immigrant and refugee elderly.

“The support is here for seniors that want to live in New York,” says Hoffman. Bottom line: While NYC may not rank highly by the numbers, the city is far from an impossible place to live for those who want to spend their golden years here and are willing to seek out a little help.


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