Best spots to retire? Dayton ranks high on unusual list

The fountains at RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
The fountains at RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Sarasota? Scottsdale? Charleston? ... Nah, the Rust Belt is where it’s at

Dayton does not have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame like Cleveland or a world-renowned zoo like Columbus or an NFL team that made the Super Bowl like Cincinnati.

But Dayton’s got Ohio’s biggest cities beat when it comes to retiring, according to a new study by a lending company called Dollar Hand.

Traditional “best places to retire” lists often spotlight the coasts or big cities. US News lists Sarasota and Naples, Fla. as their best two spots. Wallet Hub likes Orlando, Charleston, S.C., and Scottsdale, Ariz. Niche picks smaller enclaves like Pelican Bay, Fla., and Lake Success, N.Y.

Dollar Hand’s list is very, very different — their top five is a bunch of Rust Belt love, with Flint, Mich. at No. 1, followed by Youngstown; Muncie, Ind., Gary, Ind., and then Dayton coming in at No. 5.

Dollar Hand focused its metrics heavily on affordability, as well as quality of life for seniors.

Combined ShapeCaption
A couple strolls through Cox Arboretum. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

A couple strolls through Cox Arboretum. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
A couple strolls through Cox Arboretum. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton has long been recognized as one of the more affordable places to live, but Dollar Hand said the Gem City has seen a “surge in popularity” among retirees.

In addition to its low cost of living, Dayton provides many recreational options for seniors, and abundant green space and attractions, like museums, the company said.

Dayton has the largest network of paved trails in the nation, new experiences along the riverfront and it boasts all sorts of other outdoor experiences.

Dayton now has a free live music venue (the Levitt Pavilion Dayton), a free shuttle that helps people get around downtown (the Flyer) and a variety of performing arts venues.

More than one in eight Dayton residents are 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the new study found that its median monthly homeowner cost is about $587, which is lower than many other U.S. communities.

Several years ago, Dayton was named as one of the 10 top most friendly places to retire for members of the LGBTQ community by SeniorAdvice.com.

Combined ShapeCaption
The river banks and RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The river banks and RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
The river banks and RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Other ranking organizations definitely do not have Dayton, Flint, Youngstown, Muncie and Gary anywhere near the top of their lists of best places to retire.

Out of 150 metro areas, U.S. News’ 2022 ranking had Dayton as the 62nd best place to retire; Flint was #111 and Youngstown was #59. Gary and Muncie didn’t make U.S. News’ list, which analyzed data reflecting the happiness of local residents, housing affordability, tax rates and health care quality.

Dayton’s notable offerings include aviation history, lots of paved bikeways, historic districts and breweries, U.S. News said.

Every retiree has his or her own priorities, but common ones include proximity to amenities, dining, convenient and reliable transportation, family and medical services.

The Dayton metro area also recently ranked among the top 10 most affordable regions in the nation for households earning between $15,000 and $49,999 annually, according to a study by the National Association of Realtors.

About the Author