Many of the top cities for retirees are in Florida. (Mark Elias/Bloomberg)

I generally refrain from those lists of the best states to retire in. Frankly, I believe people make decisions about retirement living based on their love for a city, not necessarily a state.

People aren’t going to retire in, say, Alaska or Mississippi, solely because of low taxes. We make decisions on where we want to live in retirement based on how livable a city is or how much we love a neighborhood. Is it near water or in the mountains? How low is the crime rate? How walkable? Are arts and entertainment nearby? How close would it be to airports and health care?

The first retirement column I ever wrote, College towns lure Boomers, was on how people were retiring to their old college towns for many of the reasons I just cited.

With that in mind, listings of the best cities to retire in may be more useful.

In its Best Cities to Retire, ValuePenguin evaluated 200 metropolitan statistical areas across 24 key data points — things like housing and taxes, healthcare and safety, travel and leisure and quality of life.

Not surprisingly, Florida came out on top. “Florida dominated, with seven metro areas in the state cracking our top 20,” says Andrew Pentis, associate editor at ValuePenguin. It was followed by Colorado (3), Washington (3), South Carolina (2) and California (2).

Top spots on the list:

1. Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Fla.  “The first of seven Florida metro areas to crack ValuePenguin’s top 20, Crestview and company rose to the top, in part, because the title city’s average retirement income, which was the fifth-best in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” Pentis says.

2. Fort Collins, Colo. “The first of three Colorado metro areas to crack ValuePenguin’s top 20, Fort Collins was boosted by the overall health of all Coloradan seniors,” Pentis says. “According to the United Health Foundation, only New Hampshire’s 65-and-older population reports a higher percentage of very good or excellent health.”

3. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif. “This Southern California triumvirate rose to the third spot because it achieved strong marks across the board, including top-25 rankings in three of the four data categories we analyzed: Healthcare and Safety (22nd), Travel and Leisure (12th) and Quality of Life (6th).”

4. Prescott, Ariz. “Of the top five, no city’s seniors get more bang for their buck than those who live than Prescott. It recorded our No. 4 ranking in the Housing and Taxes category, which looks at data points like property and income taxes, condo prices and mortgage costs as well as population types and income variance,” Pentis says.

5. Jacksonville, Fla.  “The second Florida city to join the top five, Jacksonville grabbed this spot thanks to its safety ratings. It had the study’s lowest instance of burglary, a crime often committed against the aged,” Pentis says.

The next five are: Boise City, Idaho; Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwarter, Fla.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.; and Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, Calif.

Some interesting highlights:

  • Washington, D.C. was No. 1 in average retirement income followed by Naples, Fla. Worst for retirement income were South Bend, Ind. and Charleston, W.V.
  • Cities with the lowest instances of burglary were Jacksonville, Fla. and Columbus, Ohio. Worst burglary rates were in Macon, Ga. and Memphis, Tenn.
  • Missouri had three cities in the top five for services  for the elderly and disabled: St. Louis (1), Springfield (2) and Kansas City (3).  “We felt it was important that a city provide multiple options and resources for retirees to spend their free time — from airline flights to favorable outside weather,” says ValuePenguin. Worst cities for services: Myrtle Beach, S.C., Gulfport, Miss., and Cape Coral, Fla.

Other news:

Looking for the best places to retire? How about the DMV?

10 Best cities for retirement

How to catch the lowest refinancing rates

Three big mistakes Americans keep making with their money

Question of the week
Are you planning to retire in in your current home or move to a new city and/or state? Where and why? Send comments to rodney.brooks@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Where to Retire.”

Last week’s question: Do you have a favorite website or blog that’s focused on retirement?

Art Koff of Chicago wrote:

The only website that has hundreds of pages of content on just about every area of interest to boomers and people planning their retirement is RetiredBrains.com. This website also has thousands of links to other sites which provide more in depth information on each of the subjects covered.

Carla Baranauckas of New York:

There’s a wonderful website for women who are approaching retirement age or have reached retirement age. It’s called Women’s Voices for Change. It’s a nonprofit and provides excellent information on a variety of topics, including health, mental health, culture, fashion, fitness, etc. I love the site because it embraces the good things about getting older.

Russell D. Francis of Beaverton, Ore.:

Get ready for the launch of the Sonic Seniors website this fall.

My most recent retirement columns:

How to retire without regrets

Thinking of buying your dream home in retirement? Do this first.

The make or break factor in retirement: keeping a budget

Best web sites for boomers and retirees

Michelle Singletary’s Color of Money Columns

Richard Cordray talks about progress in protecting consumers

Willing to pay someone to pick up your pooch’s poop?

When weddings pile on debt, bliss can become burdened

Don’t let the bling of the ring blind you to the important stuff
Write Brooks at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or rodney.brooks@washpost.com. On Twitter @Perfiguy. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to washingtonpost.com/business