Downtown Bethlehem: Ideal Place for Retirees

Jennifer De Jesus

Out of 550 communities in 50 states, Forbes identify downtown Bethlehem as one of the top 25 places to retire in the country after an extensive list of qualifications and analysis. 

Considering the majority of retirees expect to work part-time for their early years of retirement, Forbes considered cities with low unemployment and a growing economy for the featured list. Taxes, cost of living, home prices, breaks given to those retired, crime rates, health care, and volunteer opportunities, were also all factors in determining this list. Furthermore, college towns were offered a slight preference because of the cultural and learning opportunities usually attributed to those communities. 

Forbes saw Bethlehem as having an affordable home price in line with the nation’s average, as being a walkable community, and it was noted for having two universities. These factors helped Bethlehem secure a place as one of the nations top locations to retire. However, Forbes was not alone in selecting Bethlehem as an ideal place for retirees. Money magazine also ranked this city as the #1 place in the North East for retirees. 

Like Forbes, Money also included Bethlehem in the top ranking communities because of tax breaks given to retirees on pension, social security benefits, and retirement accounts of any kind. The superb healthcare as accounted for by both publications also played a large factor in establishing this cities reputation for retirees. Local hospital, St. Luke’s University Hospital, is a level 1 trauma center and has been recognized as one of the top cardiovascular hospitals in the nation. 

Bethlehem was once one of the Nation's largest steel producers. After closing the steel mill in 1995, the city searched to reinvent itself. Now, the retired Mill is known as the SteelStacks and has become a venue for musicians, artists, and film festivals. Musikfest, one of the nation’s longest free music events, is a 10 day long festival that takes place here every year. 

The history of Bethlehem doesn’t stop with the steelwork. This city also has a rich colonial history that can be seen in the historic district on the North side of the city. Complete with cobblestone streets, buildings in this area can date back to the 1700s and allow residents to feel the cities history in modern times. 

Lehigh University and Moravian College also bring Bethlehem to life. Students, academics, and young professionals make this area their home, which keeps the city feeling fun and youthful. The Universities offer great community events, volunteer and learning opportunities. However, despite the influx of college students every year, 31% of Bethlehem residents are over the age of 55, making for a wide spreading community of retirees. 

Although 2017 was the first year in which Bethlehem was noted as being a great place for retirees, the secret is getting out and before long Bethlehem will be the newest hotspot for retirement.


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