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America’s Best Cities for Gay-Friendly Retirement

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By Lori Thomas, Associate Editor-Senior Advice

Retirees from all walks of life want to settle down in a place that is fun and inviting, but also affordable and accommodating to the needs of older people. Members of the LGBT community have to be even more selective. Even in 2016 not all cities in America are particularly welcoming to those living “non-traditional” lifestyles and only a few select places have thriving social environments for LGBT residents.

Using SeniorScore™, an unbiased, data-driven algorithm that determines the most accommodating places in America for seniors, we have determined the best cities in the country for retirees who identify with the LGBT community. The SeniorScore™ evaluates over 100 variables across multiple categories that are pertinent to an area’s older residents, including access to healthcare, social and recreational activities, general affordability, safety, quality of environment, and more. Additionally, we analyzed the overall LGBT populations per capita for each city, the presence of gay-friendly social environments, support for gay-owned businesses, and the overall level of tolerance and legal protection of the communities.

Here are the best cities in America for gay-friendly retirement:

1) Austin, TX

Everyone and their pet poodle are moving to the Texas Capital but it’s not just young urban hipsters who find life here very inviting. Austin is a very progressive city where tolerance is the norm. Over 5% of the population identify as gay and there is a thriving social scene to go along with this large community. There is also a general acceptance of the LGBT community by the population at large and strong support for gay-owned businesses – there is even an Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. But beyond the abundance of gay bars and a Pride Week that rivals those in many large coastal cities, Austin is also a political hub for LGBT advocacy.

For outdoor recreation, it’s hard to top this charming metropolis. With tons of sunshine and warm weather, outdoor walking trails galore, urban swimming holes like Deep Eddy Pool and Barton Springs, and an overall focus on wellness, Austin is an outdoor lover’s dream. The city also boasts one of the best restaurant and bar scenes in the country, so there is never a shortage of interesting places to explore with friends after hours.

The cost of living has been heading upward for years, but it is still quite affordable relative to other major urban destinations like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. And while property taxes tend to be pretty high, Texas has no state income tax and average incomes are much higher in Austin than in other parts of the US.

For full details on the Austin score, click Austin SeniorScore™.

 

2) Fort Lauderdale, FL

When people think of LGBT-friendly South Florida cities, Miami probably pops to mind first. But Fort Lauderdale has most of the same gay-friendly accommodations and nightlife in a more laid back and affordable environment. The city also has the highest concentration of gay couples of any major American city, with about 3% of all households. If you really want to go dance at Miami’s numerous gay clubs with the younger crowd, you’re only a 30-minute drive away, but you can generally find all the fun you’re looking for in the many gay-friendly bars and clubs around the Wilton Manors area. If that’s not your scene, you can enjoy one of over 100 area golf courses and dozens of beautiful city parks and public beaches.

Fort Lauderdale also makes a lot of sense for retirement for financial reasons. For starters, Florida has no income tax. And while Fort Lauderdale isn’t cheap by national standards, it’s a relative bargain compared to other sun-drenched, beachside towns.

Find more information on Fort Lauderdale, FL senior living.

 

3) Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

The Twin Cities scored so similarly across categories we decided to include them together. Both cities have high populations of LGBT residents (just under 4%) and both offer a progressive, tolerant environment. Beyond that, they have thriving restaurant and bar scenes, with a good number of gay-friendly establishments to be found. The Advocate even went as far as to call Minneapolis “The Gayest City in America!”

Older residents can also enjoy excellent access to health care services from one of more than 25 area hospitals. There are an abundance of assisted living and retirement communities throughout the Twin Cities, and the average life expectancy is almost five years higher than the national average. The city is also relatively affordable when compared to other large gay-friendly metropolitan areas.

Learn more about senior living in Minneapolis.

 

4) Atlanta, GA

Atlanta is the gay capital of the South and for good reason. The city is generally tolerant and has LGBT-owned businesses scattered throughout the Midtown, Kirkwood, and Candler Park neighborhoods. They also have the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce that helps promote gay- and lesbian-owned businesses around the city. Atlanta even has one of the largest Pride Week festivals of any large city in America.

Atlanta also scores high for its older residents due to the abundance of top-quality healthcare from highly-ranked facilities like the Emory University Hospital system. It has relatively mild weather year around with plenty of sunshine to enjoy the city’s many outdoor amenities, such as the 100+ area golf courses. Finally, Atlanta has an overall low cost of living and some of the lowest prices for senior living services of any major American metro area.

Get all the details about senior care in Atlanta, GA.

 

5) Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix has long been a popular destination for retirees. With 300 days of sunshine each year and all the amenities seniors generally value, there is never a shortage of fun social activities to enjoy. It’s also an affordable place to live, with reasonable tax rates and property values that have remained a bargain years after the local housing market crashed.

Beyond the generally accommodating environment for retirees, Phoenix is also an up and coming destination for individuals in the LGBT community. There are no specifically gay neighborhoods in Phoenix, but over 1% of households are now occupied by gay couples who live throughout the city and are generally accepted. The city also has a Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce that supports and promotes local gay-owned businesses, which are found throughout Arizona’s capital city. And while the state has a reputation for its conservative politics, Phoenix tends to be much more progressive. They recently even opened Q High, one of the region’s first LGBT-specific schools.

Read more about Phoenix senior living.

 

6) Orlando, FL

The second Florida city to make the list, Orlando has a large and vibrant gay population with considerable community support. The horrifying events at Pulse Night Club earlier this year illustrate the general threat of violence and discrimination that the LGBT community still often face, but it shouldn’t be an indictment of this otherwise tolerant town. Orlando is home to the Metro Business Association, one of the largest gay chambers of commerce in the country, and there is ample support for LGBT owned businesses throughout the city. It is also home to The Center, a community program that hosts health and wellness outreach and social activities for LGBT residents over 55.

Orlando also scores well due to the low overall taxes and an affordable cost of living. The weather is difficult to beat with almost 250 days of sunshine per year. And with tons of golf courses, city parks, and even Disney World, retired residents are never short on fun and social activities.

For full details, visit our page on Orlando, FL senior living.

 

7) Tampa, FL

Tampa and the surrounding cities of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Sarasota, among others, have long been top destinations for seniors looking for a comfortable place to retire. The area is widely known for its warm and sunny climate, it’s beautiful sandy beaches, and its world-class golf courses. But it’s also great for anyone living on a budget with its low taxes, low overall cost of living, and very affordable assisted living costs.

Tampa is also a popular place for older members of the LGBT community to settle down. While there are no specifically gay districts in Tampa, there are many unique and diverse neighborhoods that are generally tolerant. There are also gay senior groups in the city, such as Prime Timers of Tampa Bay and several LGBT-focused meetup groups. Finally, the city has numerous gay-owned businesses which receive great support from the community and from the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce.

Read more about retirement living in Tampa.

 

8) Portland, OR

Portland is a center of progressivism and tolerance and is home to the second largest per capita LGBT population in the country, behind only San Francisco. The city has long protected its gay and lesbian residents from discrimination and it has for many years been known as a warm and welcoming place for same-sex families to reside. It is also home to SAGE Metro Portland, a community group that offers education, advocacy, and outreach to older members of the local gay community.

Portland also scores highly due to its low cost of living relative to other large West Coast cities. It is a very health-conscious town with a heavy focus on nutritional food and outdoor living, so it’s no surprise that residents tend to live longer than in other similar sized cities.

For full details on the SeniorScore™ for Portland, click here.

 

9) Seattle, WA

Beautiful Seattle is another one of the progressive hubs of America so it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country. At almost 5% of the overall population, it has one of the most concentrated LGBT communities of any large city. Also, Seattle has been on the leading edge of legal protection for gay, lesbian, and trans residents. Finally, there are few places in the world that are more openly tolerant and have more active gay social scenes than Seattle.

The Emerald City also ranks highly for retirees overall. There is no state income tax in Washington, which can be helpful in stretching a retirement budget, and the economy is thriving. However, Seattle ranks lower on the list than it otherwise would due to the very high cost of living in general and the high cost of assisted living and other senior care in particular.

Read more about Seattle senior living options.

 

10) Columbus, OH

Columbus may not stand out as a place with a thriving gay scene, but it’s actually one of the best places in the Midwest for members of the LGBT community to call home. The city has a large and active gay population focused largely in the vibrant Short North and German Village neighborhoods. It also has a generally laid back feel and a progressive, tolerant vibe which is often compared to many larger East Coast cities.

Beyond the LGBT community, Columbus is also a very sensible place for all retirees to spend their golden years. The city receives high marks for health and safety due to the high number of Medicare licensed doctors and top-notch area hospitals. There are also plenty of senior living communities, with nursing home costs well below those in other large cities. The cost of housing is also relatively affordable, as is the overall cost of living, and the city boasts low property taxes to go along with the state’s moderately low income tax.

Find out more by clicking senior living in Columbus, OH.

 

11) Salt Lake City, UT

It was a big surprise when the Utah capital started making lists of gay-friendly cities, but it is for good reason. Nearly 5% of the metro area population identify as gay and Salt Lake has been very progressive on employment and housing protection for LGBT residents in an otherwise conservative state. Salt Lake is also home to the Utah Pride Center and a fairly active gay social scene, much of which is centered in the “gayborhood” of Marmalade District.

Salt Lake City has a lot to offer beyond a strong and inclusive LGBT community. Residents can access world class health care from one of the more than 20 area hospitals, including some that are nationally ranked. Low property taxes, high average incomes, and a stable housing market all make Salt Lake a good place for those living on a retirement budget. For outdoor fun, this city is hard to top, with beautiful mountains surrounding the city and tons of city parks like Liberty Park, Ensign Peak Park, and the International Peace Gardens.

For full details on the Salt Lake City score, click Salt Lake City SeniorScore™.

 

12) Dallas, TX

Dallas is affordable, has some of the best healthcare and senior living accommodations in the country, and has all the amenities one could ever need or want in retirement. It also has a strong and growing gay community. The gay culture in Dallas is centered around the Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs areas where many LGBT-owned businesses can be found, and the city has the North Texas GLBT Chamber to support these business. The city even hosts and annual Gray Pride event specifically celebrating and supporting their local LGBT senior community.

Dallas scores lower than other cities on the list due to a lack of legal protections in place, particularly in many of the more conservative area suburbs. In fact, the Dallas Morning News recently called protection for LGBT residents a “patchwork.” Still, the city is quickly increasing in diversity and LGBT retirees from all over the country are starting to take notice.

Find more information on Dallas, Texas senior living.

 

13) Las Vegas, NV

Sin City has always been a great place to retire. It’s warm and sunny most of the year and there are enough outdoor activities to make sure no one is ever bored. There is also access to world class healthcare and an abundance of quality senior-living facilities and home healthcare services. It’s also relatively affordable, has no state income tax, and low overall property taxes.

Vegas also scores well due to the large overall LGBT community and the gay-friendly accommodations found throughout the city. Retirees can live in one of Las Vegas’ multiple LGBT retirement communities and can utilize services like New Horizons Nevada to access community support, housing help, and gay-friendly events around town. Las Vegas is also home to many LGBT advocacy groups such as Las Vegas PRIDE and the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Nevada.

Learn more about senior living in Las Vegas.

 

14) San Francisco, CA

Everyone knows this is America’s historical and cultural hub for the LGBT community and no list would be complete without it. It has the largest per capita gay population in the country and there simply isn’t another city on Earth that is more tolerant and accepting of gays and lesbians than San Francisco. In addition to having the most open and proud LGBT community in the US, they also have been at the forefront of legal protections and have a numerous groups supporting their senior community. In fact, there are multiple community groups such as Openhouse, Lavender Seniors, and the Castro Senior Center that specifically serve older members of the LGBT community. Finally, the city has numerous assisted living and retirement communities that are gay or gay-friendly.

San Francisco loses considerable ranking because of the outrageous cost of living. Between the high city and state taxes and the exorbitant cost of real estate, health care, and other essential needs, the only retirees who can afford to live there are the throngs of 20- and 30-somethings who just sold their start-ups!

Get all the details about senior care in San Francisco, CA.

 

15) Houston, TX

Houston has rapidly become one of the most diverse cities in the country and along with that has come a thriving and generally tolerant environment for its LGBT residents. Houston is home to the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce and there is widespread support for gay and lesbian owned businesses, many of which are concentrated in the very gay-friendly Montrose neighborhood.

Houston is also a relatively affordable place to live out one’s retirement years, with low overall taxes and a very low cost of living compared to other major cities. The city loses points, though, due to a lack of basic legal protection for gay and lesbian residents and the rejection by the city’s voters of an anti-discrimination bill in 2015. And while members of the LGBT community can live pretty openly and without issue in central Houston, the city is also surrounded by many very conservative suburbs that some have reported to be less tolerant.

Read more about Houston senior living.

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3 Comments

  1. Larry Thompson

    January 7, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    I wanted to add another great place for LGBTQ senior to consider for retirement: St. Louis. It’s probably the most affordable city in America, great LGBTQ community. Wonderful historic architecture, a French Quartes 4 times the size of New Orleans, all the museums are free, and a park 3 times the size of Central Park: Forest Park. Not to top a great music scene, the Blues (both kinds) and great BBQ’!

    I moved here 3 years agofrom Seattle to be closer to family. I dreaded moving back to the Midwest of my birth. But it’s been a really pleasant surprise. 65% cheaper cost of living in Seattle, close to Chicago, and only a 1 1/2 Amrtrak ride to NYC, Boston, or Washington, DC. I find St. Louis one of the friendliest cities I’ve ever lived in, even with all the bad rap.

    • Mary Miley

      February 3, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      Larry,
      How is the weather? Ilive in central PA. and the winter is awfully damp, then the summer is too humid. Getting old is no fun.. Im checking around for a more comfortable place to call home.
      Thanks, Mary

  2. joseph wheeler

    August 30, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Texas? Sorry, nothing you write can convince me of this…but we know you had to come up with places. Yes, maybe Austin. But Texas is America’s anus – which you might think would draw the gay men, like me. But it needs an enema before we move there, en mass.

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