Is Florida Really Full of Retirees?

Though still popular with older folks, Florida no longer is the retirement capital of the U.S.

Florida is shedding its image as the retirement capital of the country.
Florida is shedding its image as the retirement capital of the country. Pixabay

Trust us when you hear a Floridian say “We just love your jokes about only having senior citizens in Florida … oh please tell us more.” Those who reside in the Sunshine State know our reputation. We’d just like the set the record straight.

Maine is the Oldest State

If you’re looking for the state with the oldest median age, that’s Maine with a median age of 45. Maine is followed by New Hampshire (43), Vermont (42.8) and West Virginia (42.7). Florida comes in fifth with a median age of 42.2.

Okay, if you want to rejigger the statistics a little and rank states by percentage of the population age 65 or older, the winner is still Maine at 21.8%. Florida is second at 21.3%. West Virginia is third at 20.9%. (Anyone out there kind of amazed that West Virginia is so old?)

Isn’t St. Petersburg Full of Senior Citizens

St. Petersburg, the now-hip city that neighbors Tampa, has long been nicknamed “God’s Waiting Room.” Remember, the 1985 movie “Cocoon” – about a group of senior citizens whose lives are changed by the arrival of aliens – was filmed here. The thing is: St. Pete isn’t that old anymore either. The median age here is 43.1.

The city has evolved over the past two decades to feature world-class museums, beloved craft breweries, decadent nightlife and bucket-list resorts. Shuffleboard – once considered a sport for the ancient – now it’s trendy among the hipsters.

Where are Florida’s Retirees Living?

As census experts will point out, the median age isn’t always a meaningful statistic. Florida has a wide range in that number depending on where you look. In Leon County – home of the state capital Tallahassee and Florida State University – the median age is just 37.5. That’s only slightly higher than that of Utah, the “youngest” stage in the country at 31.1.

Meanwhile Sumter County – in rural north central Florida – has a median age of 68.3, the highest of any county in the United States.

Is Florida the Best Place to Retire?

Don’t get us wrong: Florida still has a long of qualities attractive to those seeking to retire. It has no state income tax, it almost never snows here, and there’s easy access to the health care providers.

When Forbes magazine in 2022 listed its “Best Places to Retire,” traditional hot spots like St. Pete, Naples and Miami were nowhere to be found on the list. Towns such as Athens, Ga., College Station, Texas, Charlotte, N.C., and even Fargo, N.D., dominated the list. Only Jacksonville and The Villages represented Florida.

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