Whenever experts set out to find "great places to retire," they tend to dwell on cost of living and health care. Both important considerations, sure, but talk to retirees, even in this age of rampaging austerity, and you'll find most are looking forward to a retirement filled with friends, travel, volunteer opportunities, a wide variety of activities - both physical and intellectual. In other words, a rich life, richly lived.
So our list is an attempt to find the best places for the good life. All have good medical care and most are extremely affordable. But we also focused on lifestyle, on finding places where there is a balance between outdoor recreation, cultural and educational institutions, a good airport, and good public transportation, which isn't always easy to find in America's smaller cities. We also considered places your friends and family would love to come visit. After all, if you're striking out on a new life with new friends, it's a bonus to be get lots of visits from old friends.
There are a couple of surprises on the list, and a couple of places where housing is a bit more expensive, but it's a lot cheaper now than it was five years ago. Finally, these retirement spots have economies that have remained relatively vibrant, which means the lifestyle you see today is likely to be around tomorrow.