As the baby boomer generation moves into retirement age, they form the largest growing demographic since 2010, with a 34.2% increase nationally and 48.4% in Arizona alone. With the older population finding new places to spend their golden years, Arizona is one of the most popular choices. Over 23.6% of the Arizona population in 2019 is more than 65 years of age, making it a top retirement choice, amongst a host of other reasons.
Some reasons you should retire in Arizona include the beauty of the landscape, the sunny climate, and vibrant retirement communities. The state also offers arts and culture, a fascinating wealth of historical sites, and a diverse population. Arizona also offers tax breaks and low living costs.
Arizona is an unsurpassed natural beauty area, a warm year-round climate, and a friendly tax system for retirees. The growing senior community has greeted a strong healthcare infrastructure, frail care support, and senior communities throughout the state. There are plenty of reasons why you should consider retiring in Arizona, and we will discuss 12 of them below.
Arizona: A Brief Overview
Indigenous cultures of the Arizona area called the land their home as far back as 12,000 years and included the ancestral Puebloans, Hohokam Mogollon, and Patayan peoples.
The Spanish began exploring the area in 1539 in search of the fabled ‘Seven Cities of Gold’ and later established Fort Tucson in 1775. After the Mexican War in 1848, America claimed most of Arizona and later added the Gadsden Purchase’s southern territories in 1853.
Arizona is the heart of America’s Old West’s legends, Geronimo and Cochise, who led their brave followers against the invading frontiersman. Tombstone was the scene of one of the most famous American gunfights called the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Today, almost a quarter of the state is Indian reservations, home to 27 federally recognized Native American Tribes, including the Navajo.
Manufacturing has been Arizona’s most important industry, with electrical communications and aeronautical equipment being high on the list. Arizona is known as the Copper State, producing over half the country’s copper. Agriculture and livestock such as cattle and dairy contribute to the state’s economy.
Vibrant Retirement Communities
Arizona has an established retirement community with large populations of retirees, complete with excellent amenities and high-tiered health care. These active adult communities boast many resort-style living features and transportation and medical infrastructures catered to the older community.
With the influx of retirees, many more retirement communities rose in Arizona and now number at over 148 retirement communities. The larger communities include a wealth of amenities, facilities, and socialization for retirees who still lead an active and social life. These include walking and hiking routes, spas, yoga, and the arts. The more popular communities are:
Sun City Arizona
Sun City boasts a 40,000 strong 55+ community and has been in operation for over 60 years. The thriving senior community is located in Phoenix and offers a wealth of resources and activities, including:
- 11 golf courses
- Fitness centers
- Indoor and outdoor swimming pools
- Racquetball courts
- Woodworking shops
- Senior-friendly activities
Shopping centers and eateries surround the community via golf cart-accessible streets. Their spacious, ranch-style homes are reasonably priced, and seniors can take advantage of Arizona’s low property taxes.
Sun City West
Sun City West is a bustling retirement community with the highest percentage of seniors standing at 82.20%, according to SmartAsset. This self-contained community covers about 11,000 square miles (28,489.86 square kilometers) and has a population of 25,000. The average age is 75 years, and the community has several senior-friendly amenities, including:
- Swimming pools
- Golf courses
- Recreation centers
- Woodworking and automobile clubs
The area is golf cart-friendly and provides easy access to shopping, eateries, banks, and worship places.
Sun City Grand
Sun City Grand is a resort-style retirement community that spans 4,000 acres with 400 acres of communal space. The Grand boasts 17,000 residents in 9,550 homes. The median age is 59 years old, and the community has top-tier activities for active seniors and older residents. Sun City Grand offers a wide variety of amenities, including:
- Four Billy Casper and Greg Nash signature golf courses
- Fitness centers and spas
- Community events (including concerts, festivals, Wine Down Wednesdays, and fashion shows)
- Fishing and guided walks
- Bocce ball, tennis, and pickleball courts
- Dog parks
Sun City Festival
Located in Buckeye Maricopa County, the Festival houses 20,905 residents in their constrained community. The average age is 60 years old, but ownership of housing ownership starts at 45 years old. The community has plenty of senior-friendly features and amenities, including:
- Dog parks
- Recreational centers
- Golf facilities
- Woodshop and craft studios
- Pickleball courts
- Massage and personal trainers
This vibrant community is 14,473 strong and divided into five districts, each with its own fitness centers, hobby rooms, swimming pools, and recreational centers. The residents’ average age is 73 years old, with a host of senior-friendly activities and sports for both younger 50+ and older residents. This resort-style community offers amenities such as:
- Walking and biking trails
- Scenic parks
- Fishing lakes
- Bocce ball and tennis courts
- Five world-class golf courses
- Swimming pools
Spectacular Natural Landscapes
Arizona is host to some of the most spectacular canyons, as well as rivers, vast deserts, and towering mountains. The sunsets are breathtaking, and the area offers an abundance of trails and hikes to enjoy the stark splendor of your surroundings. One of the most famous of the Arizona landscapes is the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s seven natural wonders.
The Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon National Park stretches 227 miles (446 km) of the Colorado River and nearby higher territory.
The Park holds the awe-inspiring grand canyon a mile (1.6 km) deep and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide with bands of colorful rock that reflect millions of years of geological history. There are many hikes and lookout points on the canyon rim to take in the numinous light of this natural wonder.
Antelope Canyon is only accessible by a guide as it rests in a Navajo Indian reservation. This slot canyon’s spectacular formation reflects countless years of water against stone and displays colored bands of majestic hue and is a photographer’s dream.
The Antelope Canyon consists of upper and lower sections, with the upper areas being accessible at ground level. Visitors may capture beautiful columns of light filtering into the canyon in the summer months.
The most famous of Arizona falls and has a chute that drops 90-100 feet (27-30 m) into a series of beautiful pools. The water’s high calcium levels create a stunning blue-green color against the red rock and are a much-cherished site of the Arizona landscape. Visitors may swim behind the falls or enjoy a picnic along the edges of the waterfalls.
Monument Valley‘s spectacular sandstone formations emerged from 50 million years of natural forces peeling away the original plateau. You may view the world-famous panorama of Mitten buttes or Merrick butte or take a guided Najavio tour by jeep up close to the fantastic formations such as the Ear of the Wind.
Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest National Park was once a tropical region and now boasts almost 150 different fossilized plant species. Several trails around the area explore the other fossilized forest areas, such as the Blue Mesa and the Jasper, Crystal, and Rainbow forests.
Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park offers 286 acres of a stunning nature reserve with green meadows and the verdant banks of Oak Creek filled with natural vegetation and river life. The park provides several family-friendly trails and spectacular rainbow trout fishing opportunities upstream from the swimming area.
The Kartchner Caverns are located in the Kartchner State Park and offer a cave with 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) of undulating passages and spectacular visuals.
The limestone caves abound with speleothems or natural formations of mineral deposits formed by drips or seeping water over time. These formations have been growing for over 50,000 years and preserved in pristine condition since people only discovered the caverns in 1974.
Other natural wonders include:
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- Horseshoe Bend
- Lava River Cave
- Meteor Crater
- Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Areas of Snow
You will be surprised to learn that Arizona is not all desert, with areas of snow fit for a skiing adventure. Over 55s may enjoy the pleasures of an excellent seasonal skiing trip without having to leave the Arizona state to enjoy a ski run. Areas in the north and south of Arizona boast world-class skiing facilities such as:
Tax Breaks for Retirees
SmartAsset places Arizona on a moderately low level of retirement tax compared to the other American states. Arizona can provide substantial tax breaks, with no tax for those living on social security.
They also do not claim gift tax, estate tax, or tax from inheritance. The other tax rates on income are relatively low: 2.95% for married filers with $24,690 taxable income or lower, and 4.54% for married filers with over $310,317.
Arizona is not so kind to those with private pensions, which the state fully taxes, and those with a military or government pension are only exempt for the first $2,500. However, Arizona’s property taxes are relatively low, making it easier to buy a home in the state. While the cost of living is reasonably low, the Arizona sales tax is comparatively high.
Payscale places Arizona at 5% lower than the national average in terms of cost of living, with a breakdown of living costs into:
- Housing: Less 5% (of the national average)
- Utilities: Less 4%
- Groceries: Less 3%
- Transportation: Less 8%
Although the weather varies in Arizona, the state boasts 300 sunny days a year around most of the state, which is excellent for older seniors prone to cold-weather ailments. While residents sunbathe and swim in Arizona’s central areas, those in the north enjoy outdoor activities with cooler temperatures and a more bracing nightly temperature.
Although the temperatures may equal those of other states in the U.S., people can more easily tolerate the dry heat than the humid heat felt elsewhere, such as Florida (74.5% relative humidity). With only an average humidity of 38.5 %, residents can enjoy the benefits of warm temperature without the mugginess that makes the temperature lease easy to withstand.
There are various climates in Arizona. The Southern areas are hotter with a desert climate, while the Northern areas offer pine forests, mountain ranges, and moderate summer temperatures with substantial winter snowfall.
Abundance of Golf Courses
One of Arizona retirees’ main draws is the sheer abundance of golf courses available in the state. Arizona boasts over 300 golf courses. With such a great number of options, you could spend several years exploring them all.
With a wealth of ranked public courses, Arizona is a haven for both novice and professional golfers. In fact, Arizona has 325 golf courses for every 114,006 square miles (295,274.18 square kilometers).
Scottsdale, AZ, in particular, is considered one of the top golfing spots in the U.S., with a consistently warm temperature, even in winter, letting you enjoy the courses all year round. Golfweek top states for golf rate Arizona as having three courses on the top 100 list for public access courses and ranks Arizona fourth in Golfweek’s best 200 modern courses built after 1960.
Phoenix’s Thriving Arts Community
The Grand Canyon State is home to diverse artistic attractions, vibrant festivals, and world-class museums. The site even boasts several Frank Lloyd Wright sites in this rich cultural mecca.
For centuries, Arizona’s landscape has brought creative inspiration for artists from native American Indian artisans to surrealist painters such as Georgia O’Keeffe and surrealists Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst.
Sedona had blossomed since the 50s when Ernst and Tanning used the red rocks as their inspiration and is now a significant art enclave with more than 55 galleries. The non-profit Sedona Art Centre offers classes and exhibitions, art festivals, and an impressive public art collection.
Scottsdale features prominently in the Arizona art scene and boasts over 100 galleries. It offers its famous Thursday evening Artwalk, which has been inspiring visitors since 1975. Scottsdale also houses some excellent art museums, such as the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
Jerome in Central Arizona boasts a thriving art community with galleries and an evening art walk on the first Saturday of the month. Brisbee in the south is a Bohemian center of galleries and boutiques that line the main streets and offers Bisbee After 5 art walk with over 30 galleries staying open late for visitors.
Phoenix offers the famous Heard Museum, celebrating the beauty of Native American Indian art and contemporary art and installations, and the Phoenix Art Museum, which has a spectacular selection of over 19,000 artworks and modern art exhibits.
Arizona has a rich history with settlements dating back almost 12,000 years. It boasts Indian ruins, historic military forts, and preserved mission stations. The state has lovingly restored many Victorian mansions, and there is a wealth of historical Old West sites for those who love history.
There are dozens of museums and monuments and sites of archaeological significance paying homage to the fascinating past of this state. Some of the most famous historical attractions include the following:
Montezuma Castle in Camp Verde features one of the country’s most iconic and best-preserved cliff dwellings. The Sinagua civilization built the edifice in the 12th century and embedded the five-story structure embedded in a 150-foot (45.72-m) limestone cliff.
The pre-Columbian structure features 20 rooms made from limestone and mud mortar, 90 feet (27.43 m) above the valley floor. To the northeast, visitors will find the Montezuma Well with ancient Sinagua dwellings from around 1100 AD.
Yuma Crossing National Historic Landmark
The Yuma National Heritage Area holds the Yuma crossing, where two massive granite outcroppings made the only crossing possible for thousands of miles. This crossing was used by the Native American tribes and later the Spanish in 1540.
The 1840s gold rush made the crossing a focal point of travel to the west, giving rise to the Yuma Prison and Fort Yuma. The historic landmark offers museums and visitor centers to the public.
Navajo National Monument
Arizona houses two breathtaking and numinous ruins: the Betatakin and the Keet Seel. These ruins are a glimpse into the past of more than 900 years, accessible by full-day hikes with designated Hopi guides.
Found on the Hopi reservation, the site holds the longest continuously occupied settlement in the U.S. (from 1150 AD.) The overlook area has a visitor’s center and replicas of ancient hooligans and sweat lodges.
Hubbell Trading Post
The Hubbell Trading Post is the longest continually operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. Built in 1878, the building was erected by mule and pulley in the old Anazi style dwellings of sandstone and local wood. The area still has the family cemetery and trades in Native American art and a visitor’s center.
Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
The notorious Tombstone Courthouse gives a glimpse into the Old West’s history and includes courtrooms and sheriff offices. The house uses exhibits to reveal the life of the early silver miners on which the town grew. These exhibits include a scale replica of the original gallows in the courthouse yard and the guns used in this violent time in American history.
A Wealth of Museums
Besides the great art museums already discussed above, Arizona offers some top-notch museums to keep retirees interested and entertained. The original wild west, Arizona, has several fascinating museums exploring the area’s tumultuous past and the diverse and fascinating Native American tribes that held the land for centuries.
Arizona History Museum
Located in Tucson, the Arizona History Museum is home to artifacts and life stories of Arizona personalities such as Wyatt Earp and Geronimo. The museum takes visitors back in time, and visitors can explore a mining tunnel up close. The museum also offers rotating exhibits and annual events, and is a haven for the old West enthusiasts.
Arizona Heritage Center
The Arizona Heritage Center has exhibits spanning over a hundred years of Arizona’s history. Visitors can find historical artifacts such as a WWII training craft and stunning geological displays of rocks, minerals, fossils, and meteorites found locally and internationally. The museum also offers an auditorium and a glass pavilion that houses events of local interest and private occasions.
Musical Instrument Museum
The MIM is the largest musical museum globally, offering a view of 15,000 musical instruments and associated implements. The museum displays around 6,000 instruments at a time, along with video tutorials on their origins and use.
The museum houses instruments played by icons such as Elvis Presley and John Lennon and allows visitors to experiment with particular instruments in the experience gallery.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Museum is an eclectic mix of a part zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum. The museum has 3 km (1.86 miles) of walking paths over nearly 9 hectares (21 acres) of the Arizona-Sonora desert landscape.
With 1,200 plus plant species and 230 animals, the museum gives visitors a glimpse of some of the world’s most lush desert life. Visitors may view coyotes, bears, mountain lions, and even the wonder of tiny hummingbirds that make the desert their home.
Pima Air and Space Museum
The Pima Air and Space Museum offers one of the world’s largest aircraft collections with over 400 historic aircrafts. From the SR-1 spy plane to the standalone WWII military museum, the museum provides indoor and outdoor exhibits from Wright fliers to a 7878 Dreamliner. The museum covers over 80 acres with six indoor exhibit hangars, three of which are WWII-focused.
Living Health Benefits
The Arthritis Foundation notes that cold, wet weather is responsible for increased arthritis pain and Arizona offers very few cold and wet areas.
The relatively low humidity and surrounding allergy-friendly plants such as cacti and succulents lessen the likelihood of seasonal allergies brought by pollen-producing flowers. The diversity of physical activity catered to seniors also impacts conditions such as arthritis and older age-related diseases.
The 300 days of sunshine boost the body’s vitamin D production, which impacts bone health and conditions such as osteoporosis. Many experts link sun exposure to the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin which boosts mood and helps a person to stay calm and focused.
High-Tier Medical Care Facilities
Business Insider’s 2020 study ranked Arizona as number 22 in the overall best state to retire and rated Arizona number 12 in the state by state health care ranking. Although Arizona’s health care varies from city to city, the larger retirement communities have an established infrastructure and high-tier medical care facilities.
Arizona has the Mayo Clinic nationally ranked in 8 specialties and the highly-rated Banner Medical System throughout the state. SmartAsset’s survey of healthcare facilities per 1,000 residents found the following places the top-rated retirement spots concerning health care:
- Sun City West: 2.96 medical centers per 1000 people
- Litchfield Park: 5.33 per 1,000 residents
- Prescott: 1,000 residents at 5.23
- Cave Creek: 6.44 medical centers per 1,000
- Scottsdale: 4.67 medical centers per 1,000 residents
- Cottonwood: 4.54 per 1,000 residents
- Paradise Valley: 7.05 medical centers per 1,000 residents
Strong State Culture of Diversity
Arizona has 22 federally recognized Native American Tribes in Arizona alone, and a quarter of the state is reservations. Arizona has one of the largest Native American populations, housing almost 10% of the entire Native American population in the U.S. 27.4% of the local population is Mexican, and a surprisingly sizable German community makes up 16%.
Arizona, however, remains home to the most significant number of Native American languages, with more than 85,000 members speaking Navajo and 10,403 fluent in Apache. The sheer diversity makes for a culturally rich environment, much different from many insular states in the U.S.
Diversity aside, Arizona has a strong state culture and offers a world-famous annual state fair that has continued intermittently since 1884 through crop failures, the Great Depression, and two World Wars.
Since 1946, the annual fair has brought a million people to the city capital for rodeos, racing, and Arizona cuisine and crafts. The state fair is a wonderful reflection of the different groups and cultures that make up the Grand Canyon State’s unique heart.
Arizona is a place of contrasts and stark beauty, and the people reflect the landscape in their culture and diversity.
The established senior community continues to thrive and grow with exceptional facilities and activities for those past retirement ages. Few states offer such an abundance of cultural, historical, and natural interest and a climate that suits those who seek to live out their golden years.
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- Golf Arizona: Arizona Golf course Guide
- Golf Channel: Golf Courses Per Square Mile U.S.
- USA Today: Golfweek’s Best: The best states for public, private, modern, and classic golf in the U.S.
- Wikipedia: Georgia O’Keeffe
- Dorothea Tanning: Home Page
- Wikipedia: Max Ernst
- Wikipedia: Frank Lloyd Wright
- Sedona Art Centre: Home Page
- Scottsdale Gallery Association: Artwalk
- Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: Home Page
- Scottsdale’s Museum of the West: Home Page
- Bisbee After 5: Home Page
- Heard Museum: Home Page
- Phoenix Art Museum: Home Page
- Healthline: Depression Benefits Sunlight
- Business Insider: The Best and Worst States to Retire in the US
- SmartAsset: Top 10 Places to Retire in Arizona
- Banner Health: Health Care Made Easier in AZ
- Mayo Clinic: ArizonaForbes: Oh The Humidity. Which State Is The Most Humid?
- Visit Arizona: Weather
- Arizona Economy: Current Data Releases as of 02 July 2020
- United States Census: QuickFacts Arizona City CDP, Arizona; Arizona
- Visit Arizona: American Indian Tribes
- Wikipedia: Geronimo
- Wikipedia: Cochise
- Wikipedia: Gunfight at the OK Corral
- SmartAsset: The best 55 and Over Communities Arizona
- 55 Places: Over 55 communities in AZ
- NPS.gov: The Grand Canyon National Park
- Antelope Canyon: Home Page
- Wikipedia: Havasu Falls
- Navajo Nation Parks: Monument Valley
- NPS.gov: Petrified Forest National Park
- AZ State Parks: Red Rock State Park
- AZ State Parks: Kartchner Caverns
- NPS.gov: Canyon de Chelly National Monument
- NPS.gov: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- NPS.gov: Horseshoe Bend
- USDA: Lava River Cave
- Wikipedia: Meteor Crater
- BLM.gov: Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
- Snowbowl: The Arizona Snowbowl
- Visit Arizona: Sunrise Ski Resort
- Visit Arizona: Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley
- SmartAsset: Overview of Arizona Retirement Tax Friendliness
- Payscale: Cost of Living Calculator
- Sun City: Home Page
- Sun City West: Home Page
- Sun City Grand: Home Page
- Sun City Festival: Home Page
- Point2Homes: Sun City Grand Demographics
- Point2Homes: Sun City Festival Demographics
- Top Retirement: Retire to Sun lakes Arizona
- Wikipedia: Sun Lakes
- Desert Museum: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson
- Pimaair.org: Home Page
- MIM.org: Home Page
- Arizona Historical Society: Arizona Heritage Center
- Arizona Historical Society: The Arizona History Museum
- AZ State Parks: Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
- Arizona.edu: Federally Recognised Tribes in Arizona
- Wikipedia: Arizona