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Posted on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor named 7th best small city in U.S. for successful aging

By Amy Biolchini


Jan Krist plays guitar and sings during a weekly music session in June 2011 at Glacier Hills Senior Living Community in Ann Arbor.

Angela J. Cesere |

Public transportation, multiple universities and strong health care systems have propelled Ann Arbor on to a list of the best cities to age successfully.

According to a report released Tuesday by the Milken Institute - a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank - Ann Arbor is among a number of cities highlighted for their community support for aging populations.

The report considered cities in two categories, ranking 100 large metro areas and 259 small metro areas.

Ann Arbor is seventh in the small metro area category, just behind Gainesville, Fla. It's the only Michigan city to make the top 20.

The institute evaluated communities on the categories of health care, wellness, living arrangements, convenience of transportation, financial well-being, employment, education and community engagement using data from 78 indicators.

According to the report, Ann Arbor earned its ranking for its many health care services, public transportation options and learning environment.

Additionally, the number of young professionals living in the area indicates a constant flow of resources to fund senior services.

However, the report notes that living arrangements in Ann Arbor are expensive, and the economic climate makes it difficult for seniors to find a second career in the area.

Though it’s not an AARP survey, an AARP spokesmen said the organization stands behind the findings of the new report.

In 2008, AARP Magazine rated Ann Arbor as one of America’s healthiest hometowns because of its walkable downtown, bus system, parks, diverse age spread, low crime rate, low cost of living compared to other U.S. cities of similar size and for housing options for people age 55 and older.

Independent and assisted living spaces for seniors continue to sprout in the community.

A development won the approval of the Saline City Council in May for a new assisted living development which will join a number of new and expanding facilities in Washtenaw County, including the Cedars of Dexter retirement community that opened in 2011.

“There is no more important policy and economic challenge confronting America than our aging population,” said Paul Irving, senior managing director and chief operating officer of the Milken Institute, in a statement. “There is also considerable opportunity. Innovation and bold approaches are driving change - and much of that is happening in America’s cities.”

Irving said the goal of the index is to promote best practices in how U.S. communities serve aging Americans.

“We hope the findings spark national discussion and, at the local level, generate virtuous competition among cities to galvanize improvement in the social structures that serve seniors,” Irving said in a statement.

In the small metro area category, here are the top five places to grow old:

  1. Sioux Falls, S.D.
  2. Iowa City, Iowa
  3. Bismarck, N.D.
  4. Columbia, Mo.
  5. Rochester, Minn.

Sioux Falls ranked first because of its hospitals that specialize in geriatric services and booming economy. The city has the highest employment rate among seniors of the 259 small cities considered.

Other Michigan cities on the list include Battle Creek (211), Saginaw (98), Benton Harbor/Niles (215), Holland (145), Flint (163), and Bay City (240).

In the large metro area category, here are the top five places to grow old:

  1. Provo, Utah
  2. Madison, Wis.
  3. Omaha, Neb.
  4. Boston, Mass.
  5. New York, N.Y.

Larger Michigan cities on the list include Grand Rapids (93) and the Detroit-Warren-Livonia metro area (94).

Read the report in its entirety here: Best_cities_for_successful_aging_2012.pdf

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 9:36 a.m.

That is one of the most depressing pics I've ever seen. Those poor people don't look like they're "aging successfully" or even remotely happy.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

As the editor of, a website that focuses on successful aging, I think about all the factors that go into living a good life at any age. My conclusion is that Ann Arbor is the place where I want to live as I get older. Currently, I live in Dallas, TX, but have been in Michigan for the last two weeks. I intend to start house hunting in Ann Arbor next week. My reasons for choosing Ann Arbor are an active community life, excellent medical care, an educated population, a walkable city, access to all the intellectual and artistic options of a large city, and an environment that is in sych with my value system. My husband has family in A2. I do not. But I think either of us could be happy here on our own if one of us dies before the other. I moved to Texas because I don't like snow and sleet, but after living through 100 days of above-100-degree weather last year, I am willing to put my trust in new clothing and housing technologies that make the cold manageable. I still gulp a little when I think about moving but my analytical brain says I could be very happy in A2.

Top Cat

Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.

If that picture represents "successful aging", I'll aspire to whatever "failed aging" has to offer.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.

I wondered where the Ann Arbor Jazz and Blues Festival got to. And two dolls for every player there? yeehaw! Lookout A2 city... A2 city here we come.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

Last year when my 80 year old father was diagnosed as terminally ill we looked for a nursing home in Ann Arbor. The prices were astronomical and if it wasn't for the help of Arbor Hospice finding a Medicare facility in Ypsi I don't what would have happened to him until his death. Did anyone look into those kinds of situations for the aging? Not all of the aged in the Ann Arbor area are affluent.

Dog Guy

Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 2:37 a.m.

In the near future. WalkingJoe, property taxes and parking and water and tarshcan fees will leave only the affluent in Ann Arbor. You have my sincere sympathy, but your father overstayed his welcome in this city.

Margaret Creger

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

It is too bad that they did not visit the Senior Center, a real reflection of the city priorities.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

But wouldn't it be nice if some of the bitter Haters were to move ???? LoL


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

If I wanted to make a statement about "successful aging" I think I would have put a photo of a couple walking in a park or something...


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Ann Arbor is a terrific place for seniors! University Living is a unique senior community focused on a holistic approach to residential care and recognized by AARP as one of the Top 10 in the Nation. Located in the heart of Ann Arbor, we are an independent living, assisted living and memory care facility with a one-of-a kind philosophy that centers on Mind, Body and Spirit.

patty jamison

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

How wonderful Ann Arbor also has one of the best retirement communities, rehabilitation center and care - Glacier Hills.

Audion Man

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

If it weren't for these rankings/reports/surveys Ann would have nothing to print.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Dcam is right -- it is striking that the cities on the two lists are predominately cold-weather climates. Notably absent are the typical retirement destinations like Phoenix, AZ, or Ft. Lauderdale, FL. They are also all cities with some sort of university presence as well. I'm no UM apologist, but health care services, public transit, and learning options are all criteria created, effectively, by proximity to a university, especially with a hospital. So, on the last week's reading, college towns like Ann Arbor are the best places for young singles, the best places to raise a family and to grow old. Perhaps that does explain why despite Ann Arbor's faults, we are all here.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

The cold keeps you well preserved..............


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

Wouldn't it be cool if one of these times, when A2 gets another nod from one of these lists( it seems to get a LOT), that people showed up here to say "Yes, that is one of the reasons I live in A2"? Why do posters always have to come around and try to find reasons that the list is bogus or that A2 is actually Hell on Earth? A2 is a cool place, with a lot going for it. If it is such a pain to live here, why do all of you stay?

Jojo B

Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

You are so RIGHT! I live in Ann Arbor because I intend to successfully age in this wonderful town. I think A2 is helping me do it. I'm still pretty happy and my face is a little wrinklier than it was 10 years ago.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

7th best in "aging", only counting small cities? Is this supposed to be some kind of honor?


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

Apparently, among the critical positives are blizzards and sub-sub-zero temperatures in winter, given the 4 of 5 top five spots.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

ok...I'm sorry. I like the article, but could you please re-write the headline? Best city for "successful" aging? Wouldn't being "unsuccessful" in aging mean you died?

Robert Hughes

Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

I think there are some other definitions for unsuccessful aging. And sometimes, dying might be the most successful thing a person could do.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Just realized that might be a double entendre.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.



Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:14 a.m.

But we are #1 in useless list!

Shawn Elizabeth Personke

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:02 a.m.

Here's another good reason to stay or move to the Ann Arbor area!