Retirement may be the time to move closer to family or put down new roots in a warm climate. Helping make that decision a bit easier is an index of the best places to retire in each of the 50 states, which was created by 24/7 Wall St.

Suggesting locales from Alaska’s majestic Kenai Peninsula to Arizona’s desert Pima County, the index weighed health costs, taxes and housing expenses, all significant for retirees likely to be living on fixed and reduced incomes.

“Because of the medical, social, and financial consequences of entering old age, life can change dramatically in retirement,” said 24/7 Wall St.

Among the best spots were Arkansas’ Baxter County in the Ozark Mountains; Chaffee County in the Colorado Rockies; and Park County, Wyoming, home to Yellowstone National Park.

Among the best spots were Arkansas’ Baxter County in the Ozark Mountains and Park County, Wyoming, home to Yellowstone National Park.

Lovers of sun and sand could find a haven on the beaches of Delaware’s Sussex County, Florida’s Sarasota County or Beaufort County, South Carolina, and fishing fans might opt for Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish on the Gulf of Mexico or the lakes and ponds of Cumberland County, Maine.

The index took into consideration health factors such as the number of medical professionals per capita and access to exercise opportunities. Economic factors included median home values, the monthly cost of living and state and local taxes.

It only considered counties where the 65-and-over population grew at least as fast as the rest of the nation and was larger than the national average.

Demand for retirement locales will only grow bigger. The U.S. Census Bureau says by 2035, the number of adults age 65 and over will hit 78 million and outnumber children under age 18.

Retirement plan: other factors to focus on beyond your finances

When it comes to retirement planning, our thoughts usually jump straight to finances. Do I have enough saved in my 401k? How will I manage healthcare costs? When should I start collecting Social Security?

All valid concerns, for sure. But Eric Thurman, author of Thrive in Retirement: Simple Secrets for Being Happy for the Rest of Your Life, says money is just one key factor to consider as you transition to this new life stage. 

“Many people expect to live ‘happily ever after’ in retirement but haven’t thought much about how that will occur,” he says. He lists these areas as focus points for a happy retirement.

Nurture your mind

Thurman points to two key factors for keeping your mind healthy in retirement — cognitive strength and mental health. He says there are lots of options for maintaining a strong brain as you age, and he doesn’t think crossword puzzles and card games are enough. “You need to stretch. You need to be learning a foreign language or a musical instrument — something that’s forcing you to develop new skills,” he says. 

Appreciating or creating art might help too. One study found that artistic activities boosted cognitive function in older people. And another study found that people predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease who were intellectually active delayed the start of the disease by nine years. 

Your mental health needs attention, too. Thurman says that the unresolved hurts and losses that can surface in retirement may need attention. “If you’re raising children and busy with your career you can get distracted all of the time. Once you’ve got a lot of free time you can ruminate,” he says. 

Counseling, support groups, or grief recovery programs could help. “Don’t let your mind be captive to old wounds that keep coming up,” he says. 

Nurture your body

Your retirement years won’t be nearly as happy if you’re frail and unhealthy.Thurman thinks some people stop taking care of their health as they age because they may not realize how much longer they are likely to live. By 2050, a projected 19 million people in the US will be age 85 or older.

He encourages people to think about themselves in the future: “If you get to be 90, what kind of a 90-year-old do you want to be? Do you want to be stuck in a chair, or need help or a walker to get around? Or do you want to be able to do anything you want to do?”

You don’t have to train for a marathon, or eliminate cookies and potato chips. Just boosting the intensity of what you already do and adding more nutritious foods to your diet can help you stay fit and healthy. 

Nurture your relationships

“I have a friend who is a psychiatrist who says that the number one health issue in the U.S. and the world is loneliness,” Thurman says. “We can have hundreds of followers on Instagram or Facebook and not have that personal human contact necessary for wellbeing. We aren’t good about that.”

He says employment patterns in the last generation or two have increased isolation, since it’s more common for people to relocate for work and live further away from their families. 

According to the National Institute on Aging, social isolation and loneliness are linked with high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, reduced immune system function, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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