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AARP The Magazine Names Top 10 Healthiest Places to Live in U.S.


Ann Arbor, Mich. Takes Top Honors as No. 1 Healthiest City in which to Live and Retire

ANN ARBOR, MI – AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with more than 34 million readers, today announced the top ten healthiest cities to live and retire in with Ann Arbor, MI; Honolulu, HI; Madison, WI; Santa Fe, NM; and Fargo, ND taking the top five rankings. Featured in the September/October issue, the magazine also named five additional cities that received high marks for vitality and great living conditions including Boulder, CO; Charlottesville, VA; San Francisco Bay Area; Minneapolis–St. Paul, MN; and Naples-Marco Island, FL.
“Ann Arbor’s quality of life is rooted in respect: for all races, cultures, nationalities, and religions; for lifelong learning; for our health and for our environment,” Jesse Bernstein, President and CEO of the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce, said. “We are all proud to receive this recognition from AARP because it testifies our commitment to achieve the measures that define this award everyday.”

AARP The Magazine evaluated over 20 measures of vitality to help make its decisions and incorporated not only the physical aspects of a community (clean air and water), but also the health and habits of people who live there, taking into special consideration the health needs of people age 50+. Communities were chosen based on various criteria including opportunities for exercise, number of doctors in the area, availability of healthcare, diagnosis of health problems, healthy eating habits, and more. The magazine also evaluated quality of life measures such as housing affordability, the local economy, educational resources, crime, climate, recreational amenities, and arts and culture to help make their selections.

“The cities we chose are ahead of the healthy living curve with access to healthcare facilities, numerous options for exercise, activities, volunteerism, and a culture that supports vitality,” said Nancy Graham, Acting Editor of AARP The Magazine. “This has become one of AARP The Magazine’s most popular annual features and it’s exciting to be the authority on the top cities for retirement at a time when more Americans than ever are approaching that milestone.”

Ann Arbor – where 86 percent of the residents get regular exercise and there are 580 physicians per 100,000 people, compared with the U.S. average of 223 – was chosen for many different reasons, but chief among them the fact that the city is a center of medical innovation. The University of Michigan Health System is one of the largest university medical centers in the world, and it created the first human genetics program in the United States in 1940.

That spirit of innovation spills over into Ann Arbor’s economy. Google recently opened a satellite office in Ann Arbor and the company said it chose the city partly because of the talent pool the university provides but also because Ann Arbor is such a great community to live in.

“There is a strong link between the health and vibrancy of a community and the health of its economy,” Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO James C. Epolito said. “With a long-standing focus on attracting new businesses and maintaining a high quality of life, Ann Arbor’s top ranking is well deserved.”

Bob and Carol Mull, the Ann Arbor couple featured in the article, moved to Ann Arbor in 1977. When Bob retired nearly two years ago, they decided to stay in Ann Arbor. The couple enjoys biking in some of Ann Arbor’s 150 city parks and walking through the 123-acre Nichols Arboretum, which boasts a mile of frontage along the Huron River. The couple is also very engaged in the community. Bob is an active member of the Rotary and spend Friday morning tutoring fifth graders. Carol, a part-time curator, is writing a book about the region’s Underground Railroad.

AARP The Magazine’s special report examines which cities excelled in key areas of longevity, vitality, and wellness. Ames, IA was the city with the longest life expectancy, 81.02 years, followed by Naples-Marco Island, FL with 80.97 years. Ames, IA, also topped the list of cities with the highest percentage of people able to afford healthcare, at 97.9% and Johnston, PA, was second on that list at 96.2%. In a key measure of health, average body mass index (BMI), Boulder, CO topped the list as the skinniest city, with a 24.94 BMI, followed by Santa Fe, NM, which had an average BMI of 25.50. Of cities with the greenest commuters, Ithaca, NY, was highest on the list with 16.88% of commuters biking or walking to work.

Full criteria included: Cardiac mortality rates (age-adjusted), prescriptions for control of hypertension, cholesterol (per capita), physician diagnoses of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity (BMI), smoking cigarettes, alcohol use, access to affordable healthcare, physicians and cardiologists in area (per capita), fast food outlets (per capita), state legislation for smoke-free workplaces and public places, percent having a health plan, percent unable to afford health care, percent of residents who had a recent routine checkup, healthy eating (salads, fruits, vegetable servings per day), regular exercise, commuting by bicycle or walking, stress index (indicators include depression, divorce, suicide, crime, unemployment, etc.), teaching hospitals (per capita), hospital beds available (per capita), and hospitals with emergency rooms. Sources included CDC WONDER Compressed Mortality File (2000-2004), Medical Marketing Services, CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey (2004-2006), AMA membership rolls (2007), Info USA, database of establishments (2007), Americans for Nonsmokers Rights – compilation (2007), U.S. Census, Claritas, Inc., Sperling’s BestPlaces analysis, American Hospital Directory (2008).

Additional information about this year’s selections can be found in the September/October issue of AARP The Magazine or online at


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