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The top five spots in a list of best places to retire are all in PA

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Harrisburg has been named the best place to retire in America.

Reading is second, followed by Lancaster, Scranton, and Allentown, which round out the top five among the 100 ”Best Places to Retire” in the latest ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

Also in the top 10: York, at seven — right between New York City and Daytona Beach, Fla. — and Pittsburgh, at 10.

Philly ranked 13th.

“I’m proud to be in a state that has eight cities on the list,” said Jason Kavulich, Pennsylvania’s secretary of aging. “As a Scrantonian, I also take pride in the fact that we’re number four.”

The “Best Places to Retire” list has been issued annually since 2007. Until now, there had never been a top five sweep by a single state, said Beverly Harzog, a personal finance expert with U.S. News.

“I did some research, and we have had situations where a single state, such as Florida, has had multiple high rankings,” she said. “These Pennsylvania best places had a lot of overlap on where they scored high, such as affordability. They also scored well on access to health care, due to their proximity to big cities like Philadelphia.”

How the cities were chosen

To prepare for what U.S. News calls its annual “comprehensive evaluation” of best places to retire among the nation’s 150 largest metropolitan areas, the organization conducted a survey of adults ages 45 and up “for guidance on what matters most to them,” according to the methodology section of the “Best Places” website.

U.S. News used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, other federal agencies, and its own “internal resources” to determine how each metro area measured up in six quality of life-related categories important to the survey respondents: affordability, happiness, desirability, retiree taxes, job market, and health care.

“Every year we try to make the process better,” Harzog said. “Because of their concerns about inflation, we added [more] cost of living data to the affordability index. We included the FEMA Risk Index data because of their concerns about extreme weather.”

Organizations that promote tourism and economic development in the Harrisburg, Reading, and Lancaster metropolitan areas said the rankings are useful and potentially impactful.

“When you get recognition like this from a national publication, it’s exciting,” said Allison Rohrbaugh, director of communications for Visit Hershey and Harrisburg, the destination marketing organization in Dauphin County. It promotes the region around the state capital as rich in culture, history, and outdoor activities.

“The arts, shopping, walking trails, and Harrisburg and Hersey are close together and easily accessible,” she said. “The kinds of amenities we’re telling people to come here to enjoy for leisure are the kind of amenities retirees are looking for as well.”

Tourism drives interest in moving to Pa.

Lisa Haggerty, marketing director of the Reading & Berks County, Pennsylvania Americana Region, said her first thought when the ranking was announced was “I live here, so I know what we have to offer, and I understand why we did so well.

“Visitors, including older people, are amazed at our outdoor recreation, the arts and culture, and all the things you can do here and get to from here,” she said. “We’ve got lots of great eateries. We’ve got college towns, and cultural and sports events. We’ve got four seasons. Anyone can be comfortable living here.”

Nearly 20% of Pennsylvania’s 12.9 million residents are over 65, according to the most recent census figures.

“One out of four Pennsylvanians is 60 and over, and by 2030, it will be one out of three,” Kavulich said.

He welcomes the prospect of retirees from other states choosing Pennsylvania and of older Pennsylvanians opting to retire close to home.

“The affordability of housing, the lower cost of services, the transportation network, the scenery, the other amenities … all of these things factor in to why people want to move here or stay here or retire here,” he said.

The notion that older newcomers “are only looking to play golf and then have dinner somewhere is kind of ageist,” Kavulich said. “They may come here to help take care of grandkids or come here and become volunteers and part of the community.”

The priorities cited in the U.S. News rankings also jibe with the views of Pennsylvania seniors that helped inform the Department of Aging’s Master Plan for Older Adults, the secretary said.

Seniors also are a significant part of the state’s $66 billion tourism industry. Data from 2021 indicate that people over 65 account for nearly 20% — or 35 million — of all visitors to Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

“That demographic has disposable income, and older people have always been key contributors to our local economy,” said Edward Harris, president and CEO of Discover Lancaster.

Lancaster has long benefitted from an image — largely created by the foods and crafts of its Amish and Mennonite communities — that older visitors can find especially appealing, Harris said.

“We get the motor coach crowd that comes here for the American Music Theatre or Sight & Sound Theater,” he said. “They discover us and familiarize themselves with us and maybe think, ‘I’d like to retire here.’ ”

Lancaster topped the U.S. News best retirement place ranking last year; this year it came in at number three.

“Being in the top five with other places of this caliber is outstanding for us,” Harris said. “We’re glad to see our name up there.”

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