Public Policy Institute
AARP’s Livability Index:
Great Neighborhoods for All Ages

Explore AARP’s
Livable Communities

The top ten most livable U.S. communities by population size

Large Communities
500,000+

Rank City
1 San Francisco, CA
2 Boston, MA
3 Seattle, WA
4 Denver, CO
5 Milwaukee, WI
6 New York, NY
7 Portland, OR
8 Austin, TX New
9 Philadelphia, PA
10 Washington, DC

Scroll to view insights from our 2018 Livability Index. Read The Full Report

Mid-Sized Communities
100,000 to 499,999

Rank City
1 Madison, WI
2 Arlington, VA
3 St. Paul, MN
4 Boulder, CO New
5 Minneapolis, MN
6 Rochester, MN
7 Cambridge, MA
8 Columbia, MD New
9 Alexandria, VA New
10 Berkeley, CA New

Scroll to view insights from our 2018 Livability Index. Read The Full Report

Small Communities
25,000 to 99,999

Rank City
1 Fitchburg, WI
2 Sheboygan, WI New
3 La Crosse, WI
4 Lafayette, CO New
5 Silver Spring, MD
6 Sun Prairie, WI
7 Bismarck, ND
8 Brookline, MA New
9 Harrisburg, PA New
10 Portland, ME New

Scroll to view insights from our 2018 Livability Index. Read The Full Report

The Most Livable Communities Across the U.S.

Updated AARP Livability Index Will Make Living Longer Better for All Americans

The United States population is aging quickly and dramatically. As this demographic shift occurs, we face an important question:

Are our communities livable for Americans of all ages?

To help answer this question, AARP developed the Livability Index, a ground-breaking tool—now in its third year—that uses more than 50 national data sources and 60 indicators spread across seven categories to jump-start community conversations about livability and encourage action by consumers and policymakers alike.

It turns out that many of the characteristics that make a community “livable” are the same across all ages: safety and security, affordable and appropriate housing and transportation, and the ability to live near family and friends who can be relied upon.

Scroll down to learn how the most livable communities across the U.S. are meeting the current and future needs of people of all ages.

Over Half Of Most Livable Communities Return in 2018

The top ten most livable U.S. communities by population size

Large Communities

500,000+

The top 10 most livable large communities have shuffled in order from 2015, but aside from Austin TX, they remain unchanged.

Large communities overwhelmingly score high on neighborhood and transportation indicators. The Livability Index’s Neighborhood indicators largely measure proximity to a variety of destinations that help make neighborhoods “live, work and play” locations—where one can easily walk to services and amenities because the neighborhoods are compactly designed, mixed land use locations.

Rank City New to Index NAFSC Score
1 San Francisco, CA NAFSC - Yes 64
2 Boston, MA NAFSC - Yes 63
3 Seattle, WA NAFSC - Yes 62
4 Denver, CO NAFSC - Yes 60
5 Milwaukee, WI NAFSC - No 58
6 New York, NY NAFSC - Yes 58
7 Portland, OR NAFSC - Yes 58
8 Austin, TX NAFSC - Yes New to index 57
9 Philadelphia, PA NAFSC - Yes 57
10 Washington, DC NAFSC - Yes 57
NAFSC is The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities

Mid-Sized Communities

100,000 to 499,999

Six of the 10 most livable mid-sized communities returned to the list in 2018.

Similar to the most livable large communities, six of the ten most livable mid-sized communities are strong on both neighborhood and transportation measures of livability, and either transportation or neighborhood are drivers for two additional communities. In contrast, Rochester MN and Columbia MD make the Top 10 list due more to their relative strengths in health and environment.

Rank City New to Index NAFSC Score
1 Madison, WI NAFSC - No 66
2 Arlington, VA NAFSC - Yes 65
3 St. Paul, MN NAFSC - No 65
4 Boulder, CO NAFSC - No New to index 64
5 Minneapolis, MN NAFSC - Yes 64
6 Rochester, MN NAFSC - No 64
7 Cambridge, MA NAFSC - No 63
8 Columbia, MD NAFSC - No New to index 63
9 Alexandria, VA NAFSC - Yes New to index 61
10 Berkeley, CA NAFSC - Yes New to index 61
NAFSC is The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities

Small Communities

25,000 to 99,999

Small communities saw the most change among the top 10 rankings.

Wisconsin’s strong showing continues among the most livable small communities in 2018 with the return of Fitchburg, La Crosse, and Sun Prairie, and newcomer Sheboygan. Engagement is a primary score driver for all but one of these top performing small communities, although even Brookline’s engagement score is above average. Though not universal, these less-populated communities also tend to be stronger on opportunity—with higher high school graduation rates and lower income inequality—than their larger counterparts.

Rank City New to Index NAFSC Score
1 Fitchburg, WI NAFSC - No 65
2 Sheboygan, WI NAFSC - Yes New to index 65
3 La Crosse, WI NAFSC - No 64
4 Lafayette, CO NAFSC - No New to index 64
5 Silver Spring, MD NAFSC - No 64
6 Sun Prairie, WI NAFSC - No 64
7 Bismarck, ND NAFSC - No 63
8 Brookline, MA NAFSC - No New to index 63
9 Harrisburg, PA NAFSC - No New to index 63
10 Portland, ME NAFSC - Yes New to index 63
NAFSC is The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities

As Traffic Deaths Rise, Communities Choose Complete Street Policies

Getting from Point A to Point B, Safely

There are over 37,000 fatalities on America’s roadways each year, and older road users are the most vulnerable. A pedestrian who is 65 or older is 35 percent more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than a younger pedestrian. AARP supports Complete Streets policies to help ensure that our roads are planned, designed, built, and maintained for safe and convenient travel by all users.

Whether one chooses to drive, use public transportation, walk or bike, better travel makes for a more livable community. Seven states adopted Complete Streets policies between the 2015 and 2018 Livability Indexes, and now 32 states, and the District of Columbia, have a Complete Streets policy in place. Over 850 cities and 250 counties also have policies in place. More than 250 localities adopted Complete Streets policies between Index years.

Communities Use Index Learnings to
Promote Livability

9 Of The Top 10 Most Livable Large Communities Are In Network

The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities (NAFSC) helps cities, towns, and states prepare for the rapid aging of the U.S. population. Many NAFSC communities are using the Livability Index as a tool to identify their relative strengths and weaknesses, and as a means to chart progress on the path toward becoming lifelong homes for people of all ages.

As the U.S. population ages and people stay healthy and active long, communities must adapt.

Well-designed, livable communities promote health and sustain economic growth, and they make for happier, healthier residents — of all ages.

This means a community’s elected leadership has made the commitment to actively work toward making their town, city, or county a great place for people.

Learn more about AARP’s NAFSC Program

Knoxville  Tennessee

“The AARP Livability Index is a terrific resource that has
helped us frame our conversation and dialogue about
health, livability and the built environment.”
— Caroline Cooley M.D.
Chair, Active Knox
Active Knoxville Logo

Active Knox uses the AARP Livability Index to better understand its performance related to the built environment, paying specific attention to health, transportation, and neighborhood. Active Knox is using the Index in combination with local information to establish robust benchmarks and goals as residents, government, and businesses work together to make Knoxville one of the most livable communities in the U.S. Active Knox is a collaborative of local organizations working together to encourage active living.

Making Communities
More Livable

Every community member, including local officials and local organizations, can help ensure that communities offer what people need regardless of age. Whether instituting a policy to improve transportation options for older adults, establishing a program with a local grocer to increase healthy food choices, or volunteering at the library, engaging in these and similar activities can improve the quality of life for people at every life stage. Following are ideas for strengthening your efforts to make communities more livable.

Take a holistic view of policy issues and solutions

The Livability Index offers a holistic view of community life. The Index is unique in that it presents several categories, or key aspects of community life, in a way that illustrates not only how each contributes to livability, but also how they are interconnected. For example, while the Index has a health category, health-related indicators are in the other six categories as well, such as the number of walk trips in the transportation category.

Often, efforts to address challenges within these specific areas can occur without consideration of related issues.

As a result, a decision to provide low-cost housing but locate it in an area without access to health services or other vital necessities may satisfy housing affordability goals but may negatively impact community health or limit access to job opportunities. Therefore, just as the Index strives to be holistic in its measure and assessment strategy, decision makers should take a holistic approach to resolving community issues and create strategies that can satisfy multiple goals and objectives across many policy areas.

Create a toolbox of multiple solutions

Whether the issue is housing accessibility, social isolation, or other challenges that might impede livability goals, no one solution can address the challenges many communities are facing, especially as the population ages. Communities can create a “toolbox” with an array of strategies to tackle an issue that can positively impact livability. For example, to address housing accessibility, communities can implement policies to encourage the integration of universal design features within new housing units, but also offer programs to fund home repairs and improvements that make homes safer for homeowners and renters.

Engage a range of partners

Responding to community challenges can be difficult for one person or local organization to do alone. Communities can encourage and nurture efforts to collaborate with a wide range of partners who share similar goals but bring different perspectives to the conversation and put forth new ideas that spark solutions. Supporting community partnerships should also involve bringing new voices to the table, including intergenerational groups, people of color, industry, and anchor institutions—all of whom have a stake in creating a livable community.

Foster and promote participation in the community decision-making process to maximize knowledge sharing resources like the Livability Index can help community members assess neighborhood conditions; however, nothing replaces the voices, perspectives, and insights that community members can share to provide greater context and depth concerning the lived experience within their neighborhoods or a particular topic of concern to the larger community. Community members’ local participation in activities such as focus groups, listening sessions, and local planning meetings create learning opportunities for local officials. Participation also offers community members opportunities to connect with other members and share information about livable communities efforts, raise awareness about aging, gather data about the needs of older adults, meet potential partners, and create a shared vision for the future.

AARP’s Livable Communities Resources

  1. AARP Public Policy Institute - Livable Communities

    Livable Communities Publications by the AARP Public Institute can be found on the PPI website

  2. AARP Livable Communities

    AARP's Livable Communities homepage includes toolkits, fact sheets, illustrative slideshows, consumer research, information on grant opportunities, AARP's annual livable communities conference, and more.

  3. AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities

    Through the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities you can find a list of member communities, download our toolkit and application, and view sample action plans

  4. Where We Live: Communities for All Ages

    The Where We Live series highlights inspiring ideas and solutions from America's local leaders to improve their communities, respond to pressing issues, and build partnerships

  5. PPI Alerts

    To be notified of new paper, blog, and video releases, one can sign up for our E-distribution list

  6. AARP Livable Communities Newsletter

    Interested individuals can also sign up for the weekly award-winning livable communities E-newsletter