The Youngstown metro area may not be the first place people think of when considering retirement, but the area was rated fourth on a recent list of retirement spots for baby boomers.
The website lifegoesstrong.com ranked the area fourth based on factors that included low cost of living. The Youngstown area that was part of the ranking includes the Youngstown metropolitan service area, which encompasses all of Mahoning, Trumbull and Mercer counties.
When told about the study, city Councilman Mike Ray responded: “Wow ... really?
“The thing is that people in this area tend to talk about the things we don’t have,” he said. “They don’t think as much about the things we do.”
The list was compiled after talking with baby boomers about what characteristics are most important to them about where to retire, said J. Walker Smith, who helped conduct the research. The important items listed were then compared with public data to determine the best matches based on the criteria.
The 10 most-important factors to baby boomers based on the lifegoesstrong.com study are cost of living, violent-crime rate, average home price, air quality, unemployment rate, walkability, proximity to hospitals, interstate transportation, higher education and state and national parks.
“I think a lot of these [retirement] lists make assumptions about what baby boomers are looking for,” Smith said.
The key is more baby boomers are looking to retire where they currently live, he said.
The lifegoesstrong.com ranking for Youngstown stated, “Among the areas included in the lifegoesstrong.com BEST ranking, the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio/Pennsylvania region offers midlifers the best combination of basics essential to a good place to live. It scores above average on all of them and has the lowest average home price. In short, Youngstown leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to the basics.”
John Africa, who retired to the Valley eight years ago, said he never would have thought of Youngstown as a retirement destination.
“We moved back here after 41 years away. All our friends were here,” he said. “When we lived in Aurora we weren’t involved in anything. We come back here, and it’s unbelievable how busy we are.”
Africa said his daughter has tried to persuade him to move near her in the Orlando area, but he won’t consider it.
“It’s so hot there from March until October, you can’t breathe,” he said. “I’m not moving south.”
The baby boomers are a big group, and there will be those who move south for warmer weather. But this age group is less likely than its parents to try to move somewhere new for retirement, Smith said.
Ken Zuzik, area home builder, has a development in Canfield Township named Abbey Road that focuses nearly exclusively on baby boomers. The homes are smaller and with amenities that will allow older people with minor health issues to continue to live at home.
He agrees with the assessment that most baby boomers want to stay where they are, instead of moving elsewhere.
“They want to stay by family. They don’t want to go to an unfamiliar area,” Zuzik said. “I think that was true of all generations, but even more so with this one.”