How ‘Livable’ Is Your City (Or Neighborhood)?

AARP’s new online tool ranks communities across the nation. Check out how your community measures up.


Where are the best places to live in the United States?

AARP thinks it has it figured out, at least for the 50 and older crowd. It developed a livability index to rate cities (and neighborhoods) across the country. It’s based on the following seven categories:

  • Housing. Affordability and access.
  • Neighborhood. Access to life, work, and play.
  • Transportation. Safe and convenient options.
  • Environment. Clean air and water.
  • Health. Prevention, access, and quality.
  • Engagement. Civic and social involvement.
  • Opportunity. Inclusion and possibilities.

What does it take to earn a spot as one of the top 10 neighborhoods in the United States? AARP says:

Proximity to jobs helps. Plenty of housing, especially apartments and condos. Amenities of all kinds that are easy to reach. Healthy lifestyles are a big plus.

According to AARP, these are the 10 most livable neighborhoods in the country:

  • Mifflin West, Madison, Wis. “Condos and apartments blend with single-family houses in this eclectic neighborhood within walking distance of parks, lakes, shopping, a performing arts center, the state Capitol and all the university amenities,” AARP said.
  • Upper West Side, Manhattan. The culture, access to recreation, restaurants, convenient mass transit system, and walkable neighborhoods earned it top marks from AARP. Of course, the expensive housing falls on the cons list.
  • Downtown Crossing, Boston. This neighborhood has shopping, recreational amenities, easy and easy access to transit. Plus, it’s adjacent to both the theater and financial districts.
  • South of Market, San Francisco. In addition to its closeness to downtown and flourishing arts scene, “residents of this health-conscious neighborhood have low obesity and smoking rates and abundant options for nutritious food,” AARP said.
  • Washburn, La Cross, Wis. Low crime, good air quality, a mix of low-density apartments and single-family homes, plus its proximity to universities and a retail district, make this a top neighborhood to live, AARP explained.
  • Downtown, Sioux Falls, S.D. “The hub of this fast-growing midsize city features a mix of small-town and big-city characteristics: affordable multifamily housing, high-quality health care, low levels of income inequality,” AARP said.
  • Southside, Virginia, Minn. This area is known for its community engagement, voluntarism and an emphasis on education. It’s small-town living at its best.
  • Downtown, Bismarck, N.D. Affordable housing, low unemployment, community involvement, and a good opportunity for upward mobility earned this area top marks.
  • Downtown, Seattle. With a good mix of residential, retail, office and cultural uses, plus “healthy foods, a walkable neighborhood, and access to parks,” downtown Seattle is a great place to reside.
  • Downtown, Los Alamos, N.M. “Economic opportunity is high, crime is low and good-paying jobs are within a short commute by car,” AARP noted. Plus, the town boasts entertainment options, fresh air, clean water, and beautiful scenery.

Click here to calculate the livability of your city or neighborhood.

“Whether you’re a city planner or a person who wants to improve your life, it’s important to know what you have, what you’ll need, and then plan accordingly,” said Dr. Debra Whitman, AARP Chief Public Policy Officer. “Every community has areas where it can improve and the Livability Index provides the tools and resources to help people meet their needs and wants.”

My home city earned a 52 on the AARP’s Livability Index. My neighborhood earned a 50. As a former community planner for a five-county area that includes my town, I am well aware that we have room for improvement. The Livability Index scores were spot on for my area, in my opinion.

How did your neighborhood rate? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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