The health benefits of walking are well known among all age groups, but they are even more pronounced for those aged 55 and up. Walking—as well as hiking, yoga, and other cardiovascular activities—can strengthen bones, lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and drastically improve mental health, to name just a few reasons everyone should walk more than they do.
Many people consider walkability an important factor when considering places to spend their older years. Especially in the wake of COVID-19, many senior citizens are increasingly considering the levels of fresh air and open space different housing options provide.
Because Market ranked 10 cities with walk scores of at least 60 and the highest shares of residents 65 and older, citing data from Walkscore and the U.S. Census Bureau. Cities are ranked by the percentage of their over-65 population, with walkability scores as tiebreakers. Walkscore ranks 130 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, and this analysis is limited to U.S. cities with populations of at least 200,000.
Although this story focuses on cities, smaller towns are also walkable and popular with seniors as well. Instead of relocating to a new place, many retirees choose to stay in a community they've lived in for years.
Truly walkable cities in the United States can be hard to come by, so the following cities may not be known for having large concentrations of older populations. And many cities that are popular with seniors but are generally dense—say, Denver or Houston—will have enclaves of walkable areas, even if the city as a whole is challenging to navigate.
Read on to find out which cities offer senior citizens the best ability to get out on their feet, as well as the various activities each area hosts for its older residents.
- Total population: 421,042 (12.9% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 75
- Bike score: 65
- Transit score: 57
The city of Oakland offers its senior citizens a variety of activities to take advantage of its temperate weather. Plenty of accessible hikes and walks are available, including Lake Merritt in the heart of town and the inner harbor's Jack London Square.
The United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County has 31 walk clubs for local seniors to join. The East Oakland Senior Center, within the Ira Jinkins Recreation Center, the East Oakland Senior Center offers group exercise classes, Zumba, exercise therapy, and a particularly popular line dancing class. The Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center is geared toward the city's diverse population of retirees, providing activities in Cambodian, Spanish, and English.
- Total population: 614,700 (13.2% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 64
- Bike score: 53
- Transit score: 53
Baltimore's Department of Parks and Recreation places special emphasis on offering activities for local senior citizens. These include feasts of local crab, line dancing groups, and visits to the nearby Pimlico Race Track. The Cycling Seniors of Baltimore County meet biweekly to ride in groups.
Baltimore County also has 14 fitness centers that allow seniors to work on exercise programs for their age group. Those who join the Senior Network of North Baltimore meet for various activities, including tai chi classes, book clubs, and bridge clubs.
- Total population: 1,575,522 (13.2% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 75
- Bike score: 67
- Transit score: 67
Philadelphia's senior community is so active that the city hosts the Philadelphia Senior Games, an "Olympic-style event" with various sports and other competitions, including bowling and Scrabble. Walking groups, yoga, tai chi, and aerobics are popular activities as well.
The annual Senior Strut Fair takes place in Fairmount Park and combines fitness activities with prizes. There are 28 senior community centers positioned in neighborhoods throughout the city. Many of these provide clubs for members to organize and explore the area.
- Total population: 8,443,713 (14.1% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 88
- Bike score: 69
- Transit score: 89
In eight New York City neighborhoods (in four of the city's five boroughs), more than 25% of the residents are 65 and older. Of these, West Brighton is a particular haven for older pedestrians, thanks to its boardwalk.
The Upper East Side is also popular thanks to its proximity to Central Park. Across the entire city, seniors can make use of many green spaces, with the Department of Parks and Recreation offering activities for older adults in parks across the boroughs. These include early morning walking clubs, bodybuilding, and dance classes.
- Total population: 303,587 (14.6% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 62
- Bike score: 55
- Transit score: 55
Three of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods—the Hill District, Clairton, and Coraopolis—were declared "Age-Friendly Neighborhoods" in 2022 by a local nonprofit serving older people. Over the past year, each has received $10,000 to develop age-friendly programs and events, including neighborhood events to encourage intergenerational interactions. And each neighborhood will get another $10,000 in the coming year.
The University of Pittsburgh's Department of Physical Therapy created the "On The Move" program to bring together older city residents to improve their walking posture. Participants meet hourly, twice a week, for 12 weeks. The city is also recognized by AARP for having a high "friend factor," meaning there are plenty of older people to meet and connect with easily.
- Total population: 870,044 (15.1% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 89
- Bike score: 72
- Transit score: 77
A nonprofit serving older San Franciscans has established Neighborhood Circles in 15 areas across the city, helping them get together for social activities in communities like Haight Ashbury, Nob Hill, Glen Park, and Hayes Valley.
The city's famed Golden Gate Park is home to a senior center that offers a variety of activities, including dancing, exercise, and hikes. Walking-tour company On the Level San Francisco leads guided walks for senior citizens through the city, including a walking tour of publicly accessible rooftop gardens. Bay Area Older Adults organizes nature trail treks and other outdoor activities.
- Total population: 451,214 (16.7% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 77
- Bike score: 64
- Transit score: 57
Miami's older residents have many sunny, open spaces and beachfront to take advantage of. Miami-Dade County's Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces department runs the Active Older Adults Program to facilitate group activities at parks in South Dade, Westwind Lakes, and Westwind Lakes, and many other neighborhoods.
Senior citizens in Miami can participate in Walk 4 Life, a walking program that rewards members the more they trek through the city. Oleta River State Park and Everglades National Park have trails accessible to seniors for biking, hiking, and walking.
- Total population: 200,372 (17.1% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 71
- Bike score: 52
- Transit score: 45
Glendale, just north of Los Angeles, contains over 5,000 acres of open space, with the Verdugo Mountains, San Rafael Hills, and Deukmejian Wilderness Park bordering the city. A mild and warm climate keeps these areas accessible year-round.
The city frequently hosts walks and guided nature hikes, and the Adult Recreation Center, Pacific Community Center, and Sparr Heights Community Center offer senior-specific aerobic activities, including pickleball, Zumba, and line dancing. The Glendale Sports Center also has programs for older adults, including yoga and circuit training.
- Total population: 350,003 (19.7% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 66
- Bike score: 51
- Transit score: 56
Hawaii is an extremely popular destination for older folks, and Honolulu houses a sizable concentration of retirees. Neighborhoods with robust senior communities include Hawaii Kai, Manoa, Kaka'ako, Nu'uanu, and Kahala. Unsurprisingly, many of the city's senior citizen programs use the area's stunning coastlines and green spaces. For instance, Honolulu's Senior Citizen Section hosts outdoor group walks and classes. The Moiliili Community Center leads hikes and excursions for senior citizens as well.
- Total population: 237,285 (19.7% 65 and over)
- Walk score: 68
- Bike score: 51
- Transit score: 39
There are at least 32 senior living communities in Hialeah, which is perhaps unsurprising considering Florida is the most popular state for retirees in the U.S. Many of Hileah's senior activities overlap with those in Miami, which is only 11 miles away. However, the area also provides a less population-dense space for getting active.
The city's Walk with a Doc program provides seniors the opportunity to take monthly walks alongside a health care provider, who can answer questions about achieving a healthier lifestyle. Hialeah's Adult Program also offers activities, including Zumba and water aerobics. The county's Active Older Adults program hosts senior meetups for walks and other cardio exercises.
This story originally appeared on Because Market and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.