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A Where's Where of Florida for Seniors

By Jeff AndersonJuly 17, 2012
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Ahhhh, Florida… Sunshine, citrus fruits and 663 miles of beach. It’s no wonder so many seniors relocate to this area. But the Sunshine State has many distinct geographic and cultural regions. Even if you’re determined to head to the Sunshine State for the good life, you still need to decide where in Florida to settle down. Let’s take a look at Florida’s regions and explore what they offer older people who are considering relocating to Florida.

Central Florida (Orlando, The Villages, Ocala)

Worried that the grandchildren won’t visit after you move out of state? They’re sure to come often if you move near Orlando, the theme park capital of the world. But Central Florida is much more than theme parks; the region offers many lakes for recreational fun, and is a haven for anglers and boaters of all ages. Looking north of Orlando, we find an oddity called “The Villages”, a literal city of seniors. Age restricted and gated like fortress, the community has more than 50,000 older residents. Yet further North is Ocala, “The Horse Capitol of the World” and Central Florida’s foremost city for retirees. Many seniors and their families also appreciate that the area is somewhat protected against hurricanes, being inland.

Florida has more than 600 miles of sandy beaches.

Southeast Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach)

Southeast Florida is the most culturally rich, ethnically diverse part of Florida, so seniors of all stripes will feel at home. The region contains especially noteworthy Jewish and Cuban populations, so communities that are majority Jewish, or Spanish speaking, are very easy to find. The area encompasses several major cities that are popular with retiring seniors, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton. Each of these cities lies in a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic and the Everglades, so opportunities for outdoor recreation are abundant. Older foodies will be especially fond of Miami, which is known as the restaurant mecca of Florida.

 Northeast Florida (Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Ferdinand Beach)

Northeast Florida contains Jacksonville, which is the largest city in Florida, both in terms of population and land area. Jacksonville hasn’t traditionally been a major retirement destination, but rather a hub for workers and business people, but the city may be evolving. Last year Forbes Magazine included Jacksonville on its list of top retirement places, noting the low cost of living, wide availability of cultural and medical amenities, and, of course, the pleasant climate. Outside of Jacksonville, there are a number of quaint towns that seniors may find appealing, including historic St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S., and Fernandina Beach, one of Florida’s many lovely beach towns.

Northwest Florida (Tallahassee, Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach)

Seniors looking for a blend of southern hospitality and coastal living may appreciate Northwest Florida, commonly known as “the Panhandle.” Florida’s Panhandle is more sparsely populated than other parts of the state, so seniors looking for some elbow room may appreciate life on the Panhandle. Potential retirement destinations range from cozy beach towns like Fort Walton Beach, to busier, more diverse urban areas as can be found in Tallahassee. But seniors vulnerable to extreme heat should beware, as the Panhandle is actually the hottest part of Florida, sometimes exceeding  100° Fahrenheit in the Summer.

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Southwest Florida (Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Punta Gorda)

Southwest Florida is a hotspot for seniors. The region’s largest city, Cape Coral, recently made Money Magazine’s list of best places to retire. And nearby Fort Myers, another urban area features many lively retirement communities, such as Calusa Harbour in Fort Myers, a high-rise community with waterfront views on Caloosahatchee River. The smaller towns of Naples and Punta Gorda are extremely popular with retirees as both have populations that are more than 40 percent 65+. Southwest Florida is also considered a gateway to the Everglades, so older nature lovers might feel particularly at home in this region.

Central West Florida (Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater)

The principle city of Central West Florida is Tampa Bay, a metropolis known as a center for business, industry, and the military. But nearby St. Petersburg and Clearwater, are longtime retirement destinations. St. Petersburg, a major city in its own right, is called “The Sunshine City”, boasting an average of 360 sunny days per year.  This makes it an always popular spot for northerners looking to escape the cold. Clearwater, a beach city which is only minutes away, is a senior haven for the same reason. The area includes a number of senior communities with waterfront views. A little further  inland—away from the hustle and bustle of the big city—is Sun City Center, a retirement village very much like The Villages in Central Florida. Fishing and watersports are beloved in Central West Florida, much as in the rest of this great state.

Are you a Floridian? Do you have an older family member who has relocated to Florida? Where would you choose to retire? Share your comments below.

Jeff Anderson