Have you been thinking about packing up to retire but haven’t decided where you want to live? Consider Los Angeles. Say what? LA is not usually on one of those best places to retire lists.
Most lists feature quaint little towns in Midwest America and not big urban cities. But hear me out. I’ve lived in Los Angeles most of my life and it’s an extraordinary place to retire.
Why is LA good for retirees?
LA is indeed HUGE and the cost of living is HIGH. But, according to this study, it’s lower than New York City, Honolulu, San Francisco, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, or San Diego.
And yes, LA has a very bad homeless problem. It got worse during the pandemic and much needs to be done to clean it up. But, part of the reason for that is because Southern California has excellent weather most of the year. It attracts people who would rather live on the streets in a temperate climate than an extremely hot or cold one.
That said, here are 7 reasons I love Los Angeles and why I think it’s one of the best places to retire.
1. Los Angeles is rich in culture, diversity, and tolerance
Our enlightened Mayors and Governors have contributed to making Los Angeles an even better place to live in recent years.
They’re dedicated to bringing people of all races, religions, and cultures together in harmony, and are committed to improving the environment, improving education, building businesses, and addressing the homeless problem.
LA’s police department, fire department, and other first responders are second-to-none. They’re often sent to other states to help during disasters. However, Los Angeles has crime like any other big city.
As one of the largest cities in the U.S., we’ve had riots in the past, but they’ve taught us the importance of working together and why we need to respect each other. Our crime rate has dropped significantly in recent years.
2. The mixture of cultures in Los Angeles makes it an exciting city to live in and visit
On any given weekend, you’ll find multi-cultural festivals, theater, and events taking place. California was a part of Mexico before it became a state and Mexican, as well as Native American families, have lived in the city for centuries.
Cultural festivals like Cinco De Mayo, Dios Los Muertos, (Day of the Dead), and Nisei Week in Little Tokyo are festive and fun. Murals, city art, theater, and Native American Pow Wows give us insight into the hard-fought struggles of the past. Mariachi bands, street vendors, taco trucks, and restaurants are colorful and tasty reminders of Los Angeles’s rich multi-ethnic heritage.
Los Angeles welcomes immigrants from India, Africa, Eastern, and Western Europe, China, Japan, other parts of Southeast Asia, the Islands of the Pacific, and the Middle East. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and New Age spiritualists. We all manage to live happily together with little conflict and our food choices are amazing!
You can never complain about having nothing to do in Los Angeles because there are always plenty of events going on and points of interest to see. It’s a world in itself.
3. The weather alone makes Los Angeles one of the best places to retire
As I mentioned before, we have excellent weather. Occasionally there is a rainstorm (thanks to the rain Gods) or a few chilly nights. (no cooler than about 40 degrees) It is sometimes cold and foggy at the beach but most of LA is sunny and pleasant year-round.
Humidity is low so even if the temperature reaches 110 degrees in the summer, mostly in the valleys it’s bearable. Gentle ocean breezes keep the super-dry weather at bay, so you won’t wrinkle up like a prune, even in a Santa Ana wind.
When I think about the best places to retire and my arthritis acts up, I want the weather to cooperate.
4. Natural disasters – OK, we have earthquakes
Buildings that weren’t up to code after the Northridge Quake of 1994 were mostly demolished or have been brought to compliance. Los Angeles has strict earthquake codes when it comes to construction. To avoid damage to your home, it’s best to live on bedrock rather than in areas sitting on liquefaction.
Single stories are safer than multiple-level buildings and much easier if you’re older. Los Angeles has had remarkably little loss of life in both earthquakes and fires because of its strict safety measures. Building codes in new buildings also include provisions for those who are handicapped or otherwise disabled.
We don’t have to worry about blizzards, tornados, hurricanes, cyclones, or even tsunamis. Our rainstorms are quiet compared to other cities in the U.S. It’s rare to hear lightning and thunder and if it does occur, it’s tame.
5. Los Angeles is a health-conscious and active city
One reason I believe LA is one of the best places to retire is that residents are outside and active all year round. You can see them jogging, biking, hiking, or working out in gyms 24 hours a day. There is also an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and natural food stores are everywhere.
Farmer’s markets take place in many areas of the city selling organic and local fruits and vegetables. You can also have “farm boxes” delivered to your door all year round.
6. The city offers diverse living environments.
What is the best area of Los Angeles to live in? It depends on what you love. The LA landscape is a mixture of environments from beachfront, urban, hills, rocks, canyons, and flatlands.
- Visitors flock to Los Angeles to enjoy the beaches. Beach cities are the most expensive areas to live in because of their popularity and often have more traffic. Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Playa Del Rey, Playa Vista, Venice, Malibu, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, and Culver City all offer easy proximity to the sun, sand, and relaxation.
- Downtown Los Angeles is urban but rich in arts and culture. It still has Skid Row but much of it has been cleaned up and beautified. Take the Metro from various points to avoid parking. Downtown LA has world-class art museums, historic theaters, upscale and quirky restaurants, Pershing Square, Grand Park, Grand Central Market, The Music Center, Disney Concert Hall, China and Korea Towns, the LA Arts District, and Exposition Park. Industrial lofts have been converted to living spaces and are filled with budding and well-established artists, many of whom are Baby Boomers.
- The San Fernando Valley is wide and sprawling and is the bedroom community of the city. Because it’s so vast, it’s easier to find parking and shop. The valley is only a short freeway ride to other densely populated parts of the city. It’s a less stressful living environment and is family-friendly. You find post-war tract homes, newly developed apartment complexes, hillside retreats, ranch homes, and mobile home parks. It gets hotter in the summer than other parts of LA but is easier to navigate. Want to be near celebrities and movie studios, move to Burbank, near Toluca Lake.
- Canyon living is like living in the country in the middle of the city. For a while, I lived in a mobile home park in Woolsey Canyon on top of the rock formations overlooking the valley. It was like living in Fred Flintstone’s bedrock with a spectacular view of the valley below. Topanga Canyon, Box Canyon, and Beachwood Canyon are artsy havens with a few hippies who never left. Malibu Canyon has over 70 vineyards between the valley and the sea. Canyon life means you may have to watch out for mudslides and fires, but otherwise, you can find cozy little hideaways filled with all sorts of wonderful wildlife.
- The Hollywood area and Griffith Park have a mixture of city, canyon, and equestrian residential choices. In Beachwood Canyon, in the Hollywood Hills, the architecture is reminiscent of Old Hollywood during the ’20s and 30’s with some odd ’50s, ’60s, and ultra-modern structures mixed in. The beautiful neighborhood of Los Feliz is located nearby and is popular with celebrities. Hollywood was revitalized after earthquake-damaged buildings were red-tagged. It’s becoming a “happening place” to live with new apartment buildings and trendy restaurants.
- West Hollywood, is the center of the Gay Pride Parade and has a large gay/lesbian population. A fun activity is to hike up to the Griffith Park Observatory during the day or gaze at the stars in the evening.
- Pasadena – To the East, is the historic and old-moneyed communities of Pasadena and Altadena where many Los Angeles pioneers built their homes. It’s the home of the Rose Parade and is a charming community of Craftsman bungalows, Victoria-era mansions, art-deco buildings, and fabulous cuisine. For those who love the outdoors, this community also has stunning parks, magnificent gardens like the Huntington and Descanso Gardens, and gorgeous hiking trails.
Other areas you may want to consider living in include Beverly Hills, Westwood, Century City, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Glendale, Eagle Rock, and Mount Washington. Each has its own charm and attractions and are exciting places to retire. I could go on and on about all the unique communities that make up Los Angeles but it would be impossible to list in this post.
7. Healthcare – Los Angeles is an excellent place to be if you’re sick
UCLA, USC, Cedars-Sinai, Providence, Kaiser Permanente, and the City of Hope (in nearby Duarte) are top Los Angeles hospitals. Because it’s a large city, there are health care choices for every need available including plenty of alternative health modalities. If you’re low-income, there are excellent facilities for families on Medi-Cal. The future of healthcare in the U.S. is currently up in the air, but Los Angeles takes care of its people no matter what. Health fairs, free screenings, immunization programs, wellness education, and exercise programs for people over 50 are readily available.
Retirement communities in Los Angeles
State of the art retirement communities and senior living housing is available in most areas of the city.
Outside the city in nearby Orange County is Laguna Woods, a huge and sprawling retirement community. 60 Minutes did a segment about it years back on how living there has lengthened longevity for many of its residents.
The advantage to retirement communities is that there are often activities, classes, and events that include all residents. It can be a good way to make new friends, have fun, and even find new love if you are single.
Can you retire in Los Angeles on a budget?
I won’t lie to you. Living in Los Angeles is expensive. The rent for the 1 bedroom apartment where I lived in Burbank with my late boyfriend was almost $3,000 per month. But, it’s not impossible. I now live in an additional dwelling unit (ADU) with a roommate and my girlfriend/landlady next door near Pasadena. It’s an ideal situation for me and very affordable.
If the weather, culture, landscape, and health care options of Los Angeles appeal to you, you can make it work by spending comparatively very little. Guesthouses, studio apartments, mobile homes, granny pods, and shared homes where you rent a room are all available in LA. It all depends on your situation and what makes you comfortable.
This post was originally published 1/2017 and updated 4/2022.
Would you consider retiring in Los Angeles? Please leave a comment below.