Best Cities to Retire in Illinois

One of the top reasons to retire in Illinois is that Social Security benefits, pensions, and income from most retirement plans are tax exempt. Plus, the state’s flat income tax rate of 4.95% is relatively low comparably. Healthcare wise, IlliniCare Health has been rated one of the top Illinois Medicaid plans in the state, offering an Integrated Care Plan for seniors. The state enjoys four full distinct seasons with summer highs hitting the mid-80s, and winter lows averaging the upper teens. Most of the cities in Illinois fall below the national cost of living average with affordable rent and offering several senior living housings, and reasonable assisted living facilities.

We considered many factors when developing this guide – such as weather, cost of living, transportation, and community – the results are the following top ten cities to retire in Illinois.

Best for Senior Activities

Alton, Illinois

A charming Mississippi River city near St. Louis

Alton has made Forbes’ Best Places to Retire for several years and topping the list of all cities in Illinois, most recently in 2018. Described as “a charming Mississippi River city near St. Louis,” Alton ranked high on the Milken Institute of best places for successful aging. Just over 20 miles north of St. Louis, MO, Alton is quaint without losing that small-town feel, yet not sacrificing the big-city conveniences close by.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more extensive healthcare options. Alton’s population comes in just over 27,000 and continues to grow, with the mayor stating “We have a lot of positive things happening,” in a recent press release.

20,000+

Senior Living Facilities

As we get older, we have to face the reality that a time will come when we need help taking care of ourselves. Doing the research ahead of time, to have a say in the matter, is crucial. From retirement communities to semi- and fully- assisted living facilities, Alton offers a wide array of options. We found 38 senior living facilities with the cost of assisted living averaging $3670 a month.

$3670 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 89°, while the winter low is 23° in January. Alton averages 42 inches of rain in a year, and 16 inches of snow. Again, through Alton’s Senior Services Plus, there are programs available to help with heating costs, safety, and travel during inclement weather.

Summer high 89°

Winter low 23°

Community

A jewel in Alton’s crown is its Senior Services Plus, a non-profit organization that offers members a plethora of services and support specialized for the senior community. Some of the resources they offer include Meals on Wheels, Handyman and Home Care services, a Wellness and Fitness Center, Foster Grandparents program, and a wide variety of information and assistance programs.

Senior Services Plus

Cost of Living

Alton falls 22% below the national average, which is especially helpful for seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 8% less, transportation 8%, and housing 25% at 5% less.

Median Rent

$573 a month

Crime Rate

On average, most Illinois cities rank above the national average for crime. However, Alton’s crime rate is on par with the rest of the nation, with property crime and theft being its worst. West Alton, right along the river, tends to experience more crime than the rest of the city. Thanks to their Senior Services Plus program, seniors have additional safety services available to them.

On par nationally

Transportation

Alton primarily serves as a suburb of St. Louis, thus has excellent transportation service thanks to the Metro St. Louis Transit department, as well as Amtrak. Ridesharing is widely available, and there are several programs that assist in senior travel services.

Nearby Airports

Having a large airport nearby means that Alton is more accessible for family members to come and visit regularly. Thankfully, the St. Louis Lambert International Airport is only 22 miles away from Alton.

Best For Arts And Recreation

Aurora, Illinois

The City of Lights

Aurora is considered an outer suburb of Chicago, full of economic and cultural diversity, as well as a thriving arts environment. Aurora has a livability score of 71/100, with plenty of amenities, attractions, and history to be found. It adopted the nickname “City of Lights” in 1908 because it was one of the first cities in the United States to utilize an all-electric street lighting system in 1881. The Riverboat Hollywood Casino is a big attraction for seniors, close to plenty of little shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more extensive healthcare options. Aurora’s population comes in just over 200,000 and, of course, is a stone’s throw from Chicago, where some of the most exceptional hospitals can be found.

200,000+

Senior Living Facilities

Being so close to Chicago, Aurora is a densely populated city with a wide variety of living options. We found 122 senior living facilities with the cost of assisted living averaging $3995 a month. These vary from retirement communities to semi- and fully- assisted locations.

$3995 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 84°, while the winter low is 15° in January. Aurora averages 38 inches of rain in a year, and 28 inches of snow. The City of Aurora supports several service programs for seniors, including utility assistance and other household helps.

Summer high 84°

Winter low 15°

Community

Aurora enjoys a pretty dense population as well as the advantages of its proximity to a major American city, so finding your own community is just a matter of looking. With plenty of attractions, a thriving arts culture, and a diverse spread of peoples, there is plenty to do, plenty to see, and plenty to learn.

Cost of Living

Aurora falls 9% below the national average, which is especially helpful for seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 4% less, utilities 2%, housing 22%, and health care at 5% less.

Median Rent

$1234 a month

Crime Rate

The crime rate in Aurora averages on par – if not slightly below – with the nation. In fact, violent and property crime falls below the average. The crime rate does increase closer to Chicago. The Aurora Police Department offers manycrime prevention programs for the community , including Senior Citizen Crime Prevention and a Neighborhood Watch Group Set-up and Coordination.

Below national average

Transportation

Although it’s a little over 40 miles outside of Chicago, Aurora is considered a suburb, and as such, enjoys the excellent transportation of the PACE Bus and the Metra commuter rail, which runs through the city and quickly connects to surrounding areas.

Nearby Airports

Being so close to an international hub and frequent layover/connection spot, Aurora enjoys close proximity to two major airports: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (26 miles away) and Chicago Midway Airport (29 miles). So wherever family is coming from, they will have no problem getting there.

Best Senior Community

Champaign, Illinois

Hub of the Silicon Prairie

Champaign is often thought of as a college town, and while that helps keep a youthful vibe, more and more seniors are choosing it as a place to retire for its rural, medium-town feel and low cost of living. The University of Illinois offers state of the art medical facilities and training which benefits all members of the community. Not to mention some of the best in arts, culture, and sporting events that also stem from the University. Champaign maintains a rustic appeal, while only a few hours away from a number of major city centers.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more comprehensive healthcare options. Champaign’s population comes in just over 87,000 and, as specified, state of the art medical facilities through the University.

80,000+

Senior Living Facilities

Due to its rural- and college-town traits, Champaign has fewer options for seniors when it comes to assisted living. However, we did come across 11 senior living facilities with the cost of assisted living averaging $3447 a month. These vary from retirement communities to semi- and fully- assisted locations.

$3447 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 84°, while the winter low is 17° in January. Champaign averages 41 inches of rain in a year, and 20 inches of snow.

Summer high 84°

Winter low 17°

Community

Recently, the communities of Champaign and Urbana created an Age-Friendly Champaign-Urbana Committee to address some of the major issues that affect the quality of life for seniors in the area. One of the projects that resulted was a website called Chamana Seniors, which serves as a complete resource guide, offering health & wellness information, finance & money tips, and a full “Things To Do” section geared towards seniors.

Chamana Seniors

Cost of Living

Champaign falls at 19% below the national average, which is especially helpful for seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 9% less, goods and services 11% less, housing 15%, and health care at 5% less.

Median Rent

$1079 a month

Crime Rate

Unfortunately, Champaign does experience a higher amount of crime than the national average. However, a few years ago, the city created an Age-Friendly Champaign-Urbana Committee to address some of the significant issues faced by seniors in the area. And the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission offers a Senior Resource Guide, which includes home safety and inspection.

Higher than the national average

Transportation

Getting around Champaign isn’t too tricky with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit. Two Interstate Highways route through the city, and Amtrak services the area.

Nearby Airports

The University of Illinois Willard Airport offers domestic flights, while two more significant hubs are roughly two hours away. The Indianapolis International Airport is 107 miles east, and Chicago’s Midway Airport is 119 miles north.

Best Climate

Decatur, Illinois

Pride of the Prairies

Another rural/medium town retirement spot is Decatur. Its small-town atmosphere affords a low cost of living. Decatur is known as the “Pride of the Prairies,” boasting some of the warmest and welcoming people in the country. Golfing seniors especially enjoy the Scovill and Hickory Point Golf Courses.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more extensive healthcare options. Decatur’s population comes in just over 72,000 and scores high as one of the most affordable cities to live in.

70,000+

Senior Living Facilities

While Decatur maintains a rural- mid-sized city feel, it did boast more options for senior living than Champaign, just down the interstate. We found 21 senior living facilities with the cost of assisted living averaging $3301 a month.

$3301 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 87°, while the winter low is 19° in January. Decatur averages 40 inches of rain in a year, and 13 inches of snow.

Summer high 87°

Winter low 19°

Community

The region hosts the Decatur-Macon County Senior Center, which offers a wide variety of activities, programs, services, resources, and advocacy. From fitness classes to a learning center, lunch, and craft classes, there is plenty of information and fun to be found.

Decatur-Macon County Senior Center

Cost of Living

Decatur is one of the most affordable cities in Illinois as it comes in at 30% below the national average, which is especially helpful for seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 7% less, goods and services 9% less, housing 49%, and health care at 15% less.

Median Rent

$658 a month

Crime Rate

Decatur does experience a higher rate of crime than the national average, specifically in the city’s center. However, the city offers services through its Elderly Victims Crime Unit and the Community Home Environment Learning Project, Inc. (CHELP). CHELP was explicitly designed to focus on care and services offered to seniors.

Higher than the national average

Transportation

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit services the Decatur region, as does the state’s Amtrak line.

Nearby Airports

The city does have its own airport for domestic flights, as well as the University of Illinois Willard Airport 38 miles east. The Peoria International Airport is 69 miles northwest and the St. Louis International Airport 107 miles southwest.

Best for Healthcare

Elgin, Illinois

Fox River's Center of Commerce

Elgin is a moderately-sized city with a livability score of 71/100. It’s roughly 40 miles outside of Chicago and offers all the amenities of big-city life. There’s plenty of recreational activities, special events, and cultural arts. In the 1990s, Elgin became one of the first cities in northern Illinois to host a riverboat casino. Since then, the Grand Victoria Casino has been ranked as one of the top tourist attractions in the state.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more comprehensive healthcare options. Elgin’s population comes in just over 112,000, and as a suburb of Chicago has a wide array of services available nearby.

110,000+

Senior Living Facilities

As a suburb of Chicago, Elgin boasts several options for senior living from 55+ communities to semi- and fully assisted living. We found 125 senior living facilities with the cost of assisted living averaging $3950 a month.

$3950 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 85°, while the winter low is 13° in January. Elgin averages 38 inches of rain in a year, and 33 inches of snow. Through Senior Services Associates, there are resources to help with utilities, emergency services, home repair, and other costs.

Summer high 85°

Winter low 13°

Community

Elgin has a very active arts community and is home to Elgin Symphony Orchestra and is home to several theater groups. The city boasts two highly protected natural preserves, plenty of parks, golf courses, and of course, the Senior Services Associates. This non-profit agency offers recreation activities, volunteer opportunities, and caregiver assistance, among many other services.

Senior Services Associates

Cost of Living

Elgin falls at 7% below the national average, which is especially helpful for seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 4% less, transportation 9% less, utilities 2%, housing 16%, and health care at 5% less.

Median Rent

$1010 a month

Crime Rate

Elgin experiences slightly a lower crime rate, which trouble spots in the south and southwest areas. The Elgin Police Department has a Seniors Service department that provides resources, education, and information for its citizens.

Slightly lower than the national average

Transportation

Local bus services are by PACE (PACE Bus and PACE Express), and Elgin has three stations on the Metra line. The city also has Senior Services Associates, which offers many transportation services.

Nearby Airports

Elgin’s proximity to Chicago means two huge hubs for visiting friends and relatives. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is 37 miles, while Chicago Midway Airport is 45 miles away.

Best For Low Cost Of Living

Galesburg, Illinois

Home of the Railroad Days Festival

Galesburg is a medium-sized city with a livability score of 68/100, with the best cost of living ranked on our list. It is rich in history and is inextricably linked to the railroad industry.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more extensive healthcare options. Galesburg’s population comes in around 34,000 and scores high as one of the most affordable cities to live in.

30,000+

Senior Living Facilities

We found 16 senior living facilities in the Galesburg area with the cost of assisted living averaging $3,500 per month

$3,500 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 84°, while the winter low is 14° in January. Galesburg averages 39 inches of rain in a year, and 24 inches of snow. The Knox County VNA offers assistance programs when it comes to utilities and housing costs.

Summer high 84°

Winter low 14°

Community

The Knox County VNA is a volunteer network on aging helping seniors in and around Galesburg. Some of their services include transportation, meals, assistance programs, caregiver support, plus a fitness center.

Knox County VNA

Cost of Living

Galesburg ranks as the Best for Cost of Living coming in at 31% below the national average, which is especially helpful for seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 8% less, transportation 41% less, utilities 2%, and housing at 70% less.

Median Rent

$590 a month

Crime Rate

Galesburg experiences a low crime rate. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office created the Knox County TRIAD for Senior Citizens, a county-wide program designed to assist and protect the senior community.

Lower than the national average

Transportation

Galesburg Transit services the city, plus the Knox County VNA offers transportation options from running errands to buying groceries or going to the doctor in or out of town.

Nearby Airports

Galesburg doesn’t have a local airport but has three options within an hour’s drive. The Quad City International Airport is 35 miles north of town, the Peoria International Airport at 41 miles east, and the Southeast Iowa Regional Airport, in Burlington, Iowa, 41 miles west.

Best For Transportation

Peoria, Illinois

Home of the Caterpillar Headquarters

Peoria is a quaint, mid-sized town on a bluff overlooking the Illinois River. The community enjoys a wide variety of arts, cultural events, and sporting events thanks to local colleges like Bradley University. The city also boasts plenty of parks and scenic trails, not to mention many riverboat casinos.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more extensive healthcare options. Peoria population comes in with just over 115,000 with reliable healthcare.

110,000+

Senior Living Facilities

We found 28 senior living facilities in the Peoria area with the cost of assisted living averaging $3103 a month.

$3103 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 86°, while the winter low is 16° in January. Peoria averages 38 inches of rain in a year, and 23 inches of snow.

Summer high 86°

Winter low 16°

Community

The Central Illinois Agency on Aging, Inc., (CIAA) is a non-profit organization serving persons of all ages, incomes, and abilities. They offer nutrition, transportation, and caregiver services.

Central Illinois Agency on Aging, Inc.

Cost of Living

Peoria falls at 25% below the national average, which is especially helpful for seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 7% less, transportation 16% less, utilities 7%, and housing at 60% less.

Median Rent

$679 a month

Crime Rate

Peoria does experience a crime rate slightly above the national average. The Peoria County Sheriff department created the Peoria County Triad to reduce crime and educate seniors in best providing for themselves.

Slightly above the national average

Transportation

The Great Peoria Mass Transit (CityLink) services the region, as does the state’s Amtrak line.

Nearby Airports

Peoria has its own International Airport, which makes it easy for friends and family to come to visit, or if you want to get away from the colder winters, the state experiences.

Best for Senior Living Facilities

Rockford, Illinois

The Forest City

Rockford boasts a high senior population, an hour and a half northwest of Chicago it has a variety of affordable housing options, notably lower than the national average. It’s referred to as “Forest City” due to an abundance of elm trees and is home to thousands of acres of parks and grasslands. Seniors in the city are supported through several programs through Lifescape, and there are some community centers with programs designed for aging adults.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more comprehensive healthcare options. Rockford’s population is just over 147,000 and claims to have a high senior population.

140,000+

Senior Living Facilities

We found 40 senior living facilities in the Rockford area with the cost of assisted living averaging $4770 a month.

$4770 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 84°, while the winter low is 13° in January. Rockford averages 37 inches of rain in a year, and 35 inches of snow.

Summer high 84°

Winter low 13°

Community

Seniors in the city are supported through several programs through Lifescape with services such as health and nutrition promotion, day programs, transportation, and comprehensive care coordination.

Lifescape

Cost of Living

Rockford falls at 24% below the national average, making it very attractive to seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 11% less, transportation 17% less, and housing at 60% less.

Median Rent

$755 a month

Crime Rate

Unfortunately, Rockford does experience a higher crime rate, with trouble spots to the north and east of town.

Above the national average

Transportation

The Rockford Mass Transit provides public transportation, and the city recently introduced a bicycle sharing system with LimeBikes. Lifescape, the senior services organization, also offers transportation options in and around the city.

Nearby Airports

Rockford is home to the Chicago Rockford International Airport, which means flying in and out of the city is easy. Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway International Airports are a little over an hour’s drive, so there should be no trouble for the family to make visiting a comfortable trip.

Best for Senior Services

Springfield, Illinois

Former Home of Abraham Lincoln

Springfield is the capital of Illinois about 100 miles north of St. Louis, MO. It enjoys a hearty culture of arts, festivals, and sporting events. Of its more than 30 parks, two stand out: Carpenter Park, which is a natural preserve on the banks of the Sangamon River, and Washington Park and Botanical Garden on the city’s southwest side.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more comprehensive healthcare options. Springfield’s population is just over 114,000 and boasts a very affordable cost of living.

110,000+

Senior Living Facilities

We found 14 senior living facilities in the Springfield area, although we suspect there are more. The cost of assisted living averages $3564 a month.

$3564 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 85°, while the winter low is 18° in January. Springfield averages 38 inches of rain in a year, and 18 inches of snow.

Summer high 85°

Winter low 18°

Community

The Greater Springfield Senior Services, Inc., offers a wide range of services for seniors and their caregivers, including information and referral programs, adult foster care, meals, transportation, and health and wellness programs.

Greater Springfield Senior Services, Inc.

Cost of Living

Springfield falls at 24% below the national average, which is especially helpful for seniors who may not have extra funds outside of their social security. Groceries, on average, cost 6% less, utilities 2% less, housing 53%, and transportation at 30% less.

Median Rent

$689 a month

Crime Rate

Springfield does experience a crime rate that is above the national average, with trouble spots in the east and northeast regions.

Above the national average

Transportation

Sangamon Mass Transit provides public transportation, and Senior Services of Central Illinois operates a Senior Transport, Monday to Friday, by appointment.

Nearby Airports

The Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport offers domestic flights from the Springfield area. The Decatur Airport, offering more domestic options, is 41 miles east. The Peoria International Airport is 60 miles north, so while travel-access is a light more complicated, it’s not entirely impossible.

Best For Lowest Crime Rate

Naperville, Illinois

One of the safest cities in the state

Naperville is another moderately-sized city that is considered a suburb of Chicago, just 28 miles west of the big city. It is ranked as the wealthiest city in the Midwest, and as such has a higher cost of living. But it is also one of the safest cities in the state with a very low crime rate. In addition to a lot of history, Naperville boasts several colleges and universities, offering plenty of arts, culture, and sporting events, not to mention several hospitals and medical groups in the area.

Population

Experts recommend retiring in a city with a population greater than 10,000 as there are likely more services and activities available for seniors. Not to mention more extensive healthcare options. Naperville’s population is just over 147,000 and scores high as one of the safest cities to live in.

140,000+

Senior Living Facilities

We found 121 senior living facilities in the Naperville are with the cost of assisted living averaging $4794 a month. The city does offer a number of affordable senior housing options as well.

$4794 a month

Climate

The summer high in July is 84°, while the winter low is 15° in January. Naperville averages 39 inches of rain in a year, and 29 inches of snow. There is a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that helps to offset the rising cost of utility bills for seniors.

Summer high 84°

Winter low 15°

Community

Naperville has a growing senior population, with close to 29% of the population 55 and older. The city offers a comprehensive  Senior Services and Resources Guide providing links to care options, education, financial and food assistance, transportation, and recreation and volunteer opportunities. The city also commissioned the Senior Task Force, which coordinates among existing senior service providers in the area and increases awareness of the services to the community.

Senior Services and Resources Guide

Senior Task Force

Cost of Living

Noted as one of the wealthiest cities in the Midwest, Naperville ranks 39% above the national average. However, the city does offer several affordable senior housing options.

Median Rent

$1310 a month

Crime Rate

Naperville enjoys a very low crime rate, making it one of the safest cities to retire in.

Very low compared to the national average

Transportation

Sangamon Mass Transit provides public transport; however, Naperville is known for its pedestrian-friendly downtown region, full of shops, restaurants, and a Riverwalk. The city offers extra transportation through its Senior Services programs.

Nearby Airports

As Naperville is on the outskirts of Chicago, the O’Hare and Midway International Airport are 18- and 20-miles away, respectively. Both airports provide plenty of options for flying in and out of the city.

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