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Florida: America’s Sweet Senior Retirement Temptress

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenJuly 19, 2012

Florida has always been a top retirement destination. Is it the Vitamin D, or more than that?…

Florida Senior LivingWhen it comes to the shakedown of demographics in the U.S., we can make a few easy, accurate assumptions: aspiring film stars move to California; stock brokers migrate to Wall Street; seniors retire in Florida.

Relocating for an industry is one thing, but why do the elderly retire to the Sunshine State? Juliet Lapidos explored the issue in an article for Slate.com a few years ago, and came up with four good reasons: “Weather, effective marketing, low taxes and a herd mentality.” Makes sense. After all, why do a city’s fabric dealers all end up on the same street?

According to Lapidos, when social security started paying out in 1940, those over the age of 65 were able to live independently of their children for the first time, and it only took the first wave of seniors to move south — first to Miami and St. Petersburg — and send jealous-making postcards back to their friends to kick-start the first wave. The “marketing” was as grassroots as it gets.

A more temperate climate, without harsh winters, along with a tropical humidity that helps ease creaky joints and dry skin, provided further incentive to join the ranks of the elderly in Florida.

Florida’s “The Villages” Retirement Intrigue

As one of Florida’s fastest growing retirement communities in the state, The Villages, for example, grew by more than 517 percent between 2000 and 2010 to more than 51,000. And, census predictors are charting Florida’s population growth to increase by 80 percent from 2000 to 2030. It’s also the only state to house more people over the age of 65 than under 18.

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The Villages, for example, is a favorite campaign stop for Republican presidential candidates, who can get the most bang for their buck when currying favor with their conservative base.

Low property taxes sweeten the deal among such conservatives. In 1934, voters passed a law to exempt the first $5,000 of a property’s value in taxes and in 1980 they increased that amount to $25,000. And, in the golden years when incomes are tight — and passive — the difference can mean an extra vacation or take the sting out of many a doctor bill.

In keeping with the herd mentality, transplants tend to cluster according to their origin: New Yorkers have traditionally landed in Miami or West Palm Beach; Midwesterners in Naples or Fort Myers. The Villages, located smack in the middle of the state in Sumter, attracts a sampling of Northerners who don’t seem to mind a lack of coastline. The 2010 census showed that of the top ten U.S. cities with the oldest populations, remarkably, five are in Florida.

Yahoo! Answers posed the question online: Why do the majority of elderly people move to Florida? One contributor chimed in: “You must not have arthritis or you would know that weather changes hurt our bones!”

Post creative contributions from Sally Schultheiss.

Where will you retire? Are you tempted by Florida? We’d love to hear in the comments section below…

Dana Larsen
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Dana Larsen
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