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Jax Daily Record Friday, Feb. 8, 201905:20 AM EST

Retiring? This is a good place for it

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Northeast and North Central Florida ranked in the top 10 for affordable places to live for retirees.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

With bitterly cold weather plaguing much of the country last week, it’s a good bet that many residents in northern states were daydreaming about retiring to sunny Florida.

Their first image may be the beaches of South Florida, but when potential retirees start looking at their wallets, several cities in Northeast and North Central Florida will be more appealing, according to 55places.com, an information website for active adult communities.

The website last week offered a list of the most affordable U.S. cities for retirement and four of the top six were in Northeast and North Central Florida, including Jacksonville at No. 4.

“In thinking of places to retire in Florida, Jacksonville usually isn’t one of the first cities that gets name-checked,” 55places said.

“However, when you add up all of the factors, it’s actually the most affordable big city in the state for a fun and active retirement. The cost of living here is below the national average and a full 10 percent less than Miami.”

Northeast Florida is a younger community than the rest of the state. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the median age in the Jacksonville metropolitan area was 38.1 in 2017, compared with 41.8 for all of Florida.

Jacksonville-area residents age 60 and older comprise 20.6 percent of the total population, while that age group comprises 25.6 percent of all Floridians.

Most residents in that age group are retired. The census bureau said 72.5 percent of Jacksonville area seniors age 60 and higher are not in the labor force.

Active adult communities generally are targeted to people age 55 and older. The 55places study looked at several factors to come up with its list, including cost of living, health care options and availability of communities designed for that age group.

Active adult communities have grown in the Jacksonville area in the past decade. Del Webb, a pioneer of the concept, has three 55-and-older communities in Northeast Florida and announced plans for two more last week.

Homebuilder D.R. Horton also has four active adult communities under development.

55places found several reasons Jacksonville is becoming appealing for that market, besides affordability.

“The city also scores well in terms of health care opportunities (Mayo Clinic, University of Florida Health, Ackerman Cancer Center), weather, and overall well-being. It’s also an ideal landing spot for active retirees as there’s everything from golf to sea sports to hiking to horseback riding available very easily,” it said.

Other nearby cities on the 55places list are Ocala (ranked second), Daytona Beach (fifth) and Gainesville (sixth).

The top city on the 55place list is far away from Florida: Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Sioux Falls doesn’t have any 55 and older communities, it said. However, it features a low cost of living, quality health care and a low crime rate.

55places said it surveyed readers and found home prices to be a key factor in choosing a retirement community, with 77 percent saying they expected their housing costs to be the same or less than their current home.

“But a home within a certain price point is only half of the equation,” 55places Chief Operating Officer Danny Goodman said in a news release.

“The surrounding area—whether or not an active adult community is of interest—plays an integral role in quality of life, and nearby attractions and available establishments can greatly enhance that. These destinations provide budget-friendly options without demanding a sacrifice for comfort.”

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