Survey: For livability, it’s Virginia, MN

It’s not trendy and it’s not glitzy but Virginia, Minn. — on the Iron Range — has one of the 10 best neighborhoods for people over 50 in the country, according to the AARP.

To create the index, the AARP Public Policy Institute surveyed 4,500 Americans 50 and older to determine the aspects of community most important to them. We then developed seven categories around those results—housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement and opportunity, taking into account 60 different factors to rate communities in those categories.

The Southside neighborhood of Virginia finished just behind neighborhoods in Madison, Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco, La Crosse, and Sioux Falls.

“Traffic-free living in a small-town community in the Iron Range with affordable single-family homes and hockey-crazy residents. The area is known for community engagement, voluntarism and an emphasis on education.”

For the record, weather was not one of the factors in AARP’s livability index.

In the category of most livable cities, Madison, Wis., topped the list of cities with a population between 100,000 and 500,000 people, with St. Paul finishing second. “The city helps developers rehabilitate structures left vacant by foreclosures,” the AARP said.

Rochester finished fourth. “With the Mayo Clinic, it’s not surprising the city has the highest hospital satisfaction rate among these most livable cities,” it said.

The Green Line, which runs mostly on the St.  Paul side of the river, was credited for boosting Minneapolis to fifth place in the category.

Among cities with between 25,000 and 100,000 people, La Crosse, Wis., reigned. “Grand River Station in downtown offers apartments customized for artists and entrepreneurs, retail space and a hub for the city’s bus system,” the survey said.

Duluth, because it ranked in the top 10 for clean air, ranked fifth.

In the category for best cities to make friends — a shortcoming in Minnesota, according to many people who’ve tried — only Owatonna makes the list.