retirement

Naples, Fla.: A Great Small City for Retiring in Good Health

Retirees are drawn here thanks to the city's low taxes, growing cultural scene, beaches and diverse real estate market.

Population: 21,512

Cost of living: N/A (national median = 100)

Median home price: $294,000

Healthy highlight: Top grade from the American Lung Association for air quality

When Bill Barnett, now in his fourth term as mayor, moved to Naples in 1973, it was a laid-back fishing village with a grocery, two restaurants and a pharmacy. Locals rejoiced when an Italian restaurant opened.

Today, Fifth Avenue South, the main commercial district, is lined with art galleries, boutiques and cafés offering every kind of cuisine (including Italian). The Third Street South district in Old Naples, about a mile away, is an enclave of gourmet stores and upscale shopping.

The growth has been fueled by a torrent of retirees attracted by miles of beaches, gracious homes and giant banyan trees. But you don't have to be retired to like living here. The Naples–Marco Island area was ranked number one in the 2014–15 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index, which measures residents’ views about health, financial security, community and sense of purpose.

In 2015, Naples-based NCH Healthcare System launched the Blue Zones project, a community-wide effort to encourage healthy behaviors. The term blue zones was coined by National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner to identify places in the world, such as Okinawa, Japan, and Ikaria, Greece, where inhabitants routinely live into their nineties and beyond.

Remaining active is one of the characteristics of a Blue Zones lifestyle, and that's easy to do in Old Naples. The neighborhood is within walking or biking distance of grocery stores, restaurants, the hospital and the Old Naples Golf Course. Sport fishing and kayaking are also popular, and there are nearly 90 golf courses in the greater Naples area.

Community involvement has also been associated with longevity, and there are plenty of opportunities for that in Naples. John Lehmann, 65, a retired consultant and president of the Old Naples Association, and his wife, Kathleen, volunteer for the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, one of the largest in the U.S. The community supports more than 700 nonprofit organizations, says Alan Horton, 73, a retired newspaper executive and former chairman of the Community Foundation of Collier County. One of the most popular annual events is the Winter Wine Festival, sponsored by the Naples Children and Education Foundation. The festival has raised more than $146 million to support programs for low-income and at-risk children.

NCH, which operates a hospital downtown and one in north Naples, offers a range of specialties, including rehabilitation and cardiac, cancer and geriatric care. It's a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, which connects its doctors with Mayo Clinic specialists. Naples is also home to Physicians Regional Healthcare, which operates two hospitals with more than 45 specialties.

Residents pay a premium to live the good life, particularly in Old Naples. Home prices range from about $240,000 for a small condo to more than $5 million for homes on the beach, says Sharon Kaltenborn, a real estate agent for Sotheby's International Realty.

Florida is one of the most tax-friendly states for retirees, with no state income tax.

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