The Most Popular States for Retired People in the U.S.

Reviewed by Margaret James

More than 55 million Americans are age 65 or older, according to the Census Bureau’s 2020 population estimates. Most choose to retire around that age — give or take a few years — to relax, spend more time with friends and family, pursue a passion, or enjoy a change of scenery. 

Of course, as you close in on retirement, there are many decisions to make, but one tops them all: where to live. Some adventurous retirees explore overseas destinations. Most, however, stay in the U.S., either aging in place or trying something new. But where do most reside?

To answer that question, we researched the states with the largest shares, highest numbers, and greatest influxes of older adults. Here’s what we found. 

Key Takeaways

  • Maine, Florida, and West Virginia have the largest shares of people age 65+ as a percentage of the state population. 
  • California, Florida, and Texas have the highest numbers of older adults.
  • Wyoming, Delaware, and South Carolina have the most inbound movers citing retirement as the main reason for moving.
  • Florida is home to 15 of the top 25 U.S. cities with the highest percentages of 65+ residents.  

Which States Have the Most Retirees?

The answer to that question is a bit complicated. Some states have the largest shares of older adults — meaning the highest percentage compared to the state’s population. Others have the highest numbers of people in the 65+ age group, but that can be a function of a state’s population. For example, California has the most people age 65+ of any state but has the largest population overall. And some states have the greatest influxes of residents citing “retirement” as the primary reason for their move.  

So, ranking the most popular states for older adults depends on the data you use. Here’s a breakdown of each measure. 

States With the Largest Shares of Older Adults

To determine the most popular states for older adults, we looked at two data sets from the U.S. Census Bureau:

  1. The states with the largest shares of older adults compared to the overall population.
  2. The states with the highest numbers of older adults.

Geographically southern states like Arizona and Florida are regarded as retirement magnets due to their warm weather and favorable taxes. But states in the Northeast and Midwest have among the largest shares of older adults — and it’s not necessarily because retirees are flocking there. Instead, it’s because young adults in these states have moved south and west in search of educational and job opportunities, leaving the older generation to age in place.

Maine, for example, has a relatively small number of people age 65+ (294,000), but that represents nearly 22% of the state’s population — the largest share of older adults in any state. Here are the top 10 states where this age group represents the biggest share of the population:

  1. Maine: 21.8% 
  2. Florida: 21.3%
  3. West Virginia: 20.9%
  4. Vermont: 20.6%
  5. Delaware: 20.0%
  6. Montana: 19.7%
  7. Hawaii: 19.6%
  8. New Hampshire: 19.3%
  9. Pennsylvania: 19.1%
  10. South Carolina: 18.7%

States With the Highest Numbers of Older Adults

If we look at states with the highest numbers of people in this age group (not as a percentage of the state’s population), the data tells a different story. A quarter of adults age 65+ in the U.S. live in one of three states on the top 10 list; the next seven states account for roughly another quarter of the 65+ population in the U.S.:

  1. California: 5,976,000 
  2. Florida: 4,638,000 
  3. Texas: 3,874,000 
  4. New York: 3,370,000
  5. Pennsylvania: 2,448,000
  6. Ohio: 2,098,000
  7. Illinois: 2,089,000
  8. North Carolina: 1,815,000
  9. Michigan: 1,812,000
  10. Georgia: 1,575,000

The top five states with the fewest people age 65+ are Alaska (96,000), Wyoming (104,000), North Dakota (123,000), Vermont (129,000), and South Dakota (157,000). The top five states with the smallest share of older adults are Utah (11.7%), Alaska (13.1%), Texas (13.2%), Georgia (14.7%), and Colorado (15.1%).

Most Popular States to Retire to

We also looked at a report that United Van Lines recently released. Its 46th Annual National Movers Study tracks migration patterns on a state-by-state basis. The study ranks states based on the inbound (moving to) and outbound (moving from) percentages of total moves in each state. The study also tracks why people move to new states, whether for lifestyle changes, to be closer to family, to start a new job, for a lower cost of living, or to retire. 

Here are the top 10 states where people cited retirement as the main reason for inbound moves:

  1. Wyoming
  2. Delaware
  3. South Carolina
  4. Florida
  5. Maine
  6. Arizona
  7. New Mexico
  8. South Dakota
  9. West Virginia
  10. Alabama

Only one state (Florida) made the top 10 across all three metrics; five states — Delaware, Maine, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia — were top 10 on two. 

Cities With the Most Retirees

We reviewed one final report from Extra Space Storage to drill down the top retirement spots by city. The findings use data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to identify the 25 cities with the most people aged 65 and up. Not surprisingly, most of the cities (15) are in Florida. Among the remaining cities, four are in California, and Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, and Texas have one each.

Here’s the complete list, including the percentage of the city’s residents who are 65 or older:

  1. North Port, Florida: 32.4%
  2. Palm Coast, Florida: 30.2%
  3. Tamarac, Florida: 28.1%
  4. Walnut Creek, Florida: 27.8%
  5. Port Charlotte, Florida: 27.7%
  6. Scottsdale, Arizona: 27.6%
  7. Georgetown, Texas: 27.1%
  8. Delray Beach, Florida: 26.2%
  9. Boca Raton, Florida: 25.5%
  10. Deerfield Beach, Florida: 24.3%
  11. Jupiter, Florida: 24.2%
  12. Spring Hill, Florida: 24.1%
  13. Cape Coral, Florida: 24.0%
  14. Largo, Florida: 24.0%
  15. Clearwater, Florida: 23.7%
  16. Santa Fe, New Mexico: 23.6%
  17. Hemet, California: 23.4%
  18. Melbourne, Florida: 23.2%
  19. Port St. Lucie, Florida: 23.0%
  20. Mission Viejo, California: 23.0%
  21. Indio, California: 22.8%
  22. Livonia, Michigan: 22.6%
  23. St. George, Utah: 22.6%
  24. New Rochelle, New York: 22.5%
  25. Daytona Beach, Florida: 22.5% 

Where Retirees Live vs. the Best Places to Retire 

Our research focused on the states and cities where most retirees actually live, based on various data from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the results aren’t necessarily the “best” places for retirees to live. 

There’s some overlap — many of these states and cities regularly rank high on various best-of retirement lists. But the “best” retirement spots consider factors beyond population statistics, including affordability, tax friendliness, amenities, quality of life, and health care.

Of course, it’s essential to consider personal factors, too, such as your retirement budget, proximity to friends and family, access to favorite hobbies, and even the distance to an airport if you plan to travel. 

What States Are Retirees Moving To Right Now?

South Carolina is a hot destination for newly relocating retired Americans in 2023.

Florida remained the top choice among 338,000 U.S. retirees who moved in 2023, at 11.1%. South Carolina was close behind at 10%. New Jersey attracted 6%. Texas was chosen by 5.8%, and Washington State got 5.3%.

What States Are Retirees Leaving Right Now?

California was the state that lost the most retirees to other states in 2023. It accounted for 18.3% of all outbound retirees. Others that lost the most retirees to other states included New York, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

What Are the Best Retirement Destination for U.S. Expats?

Costa Rica, Portugal, France, Mexico, and Spain make many lists of countries that have much to offer adventurous U.S. retirees. All rank highly for quality of life, affordability, healthcare services, and easy residency requirements.

The Bottom Line

When deciding where to retire, prioritize your needs and wants, identify and research potential spots, and, most importantly, spend time there before committing. That way, you can help ensure you’ll find the perfect spot to enjoy your golden years. 

Read the original article on Investopedia.