Main Street Galena, Illinois. Image credit Dawid S Swierczek via Shutterstock.

8 Top-Ranked Towns in Illinois for Retirees

A good retirement plan goes a long way in determining the quality of life during your golden years. After years of diligently working a 9 to 5, calling time on your career means getting away from the hustle and bustle in the city to enjoy the fruits of your labor. This should be a primary consideration when choosing a retirement home.

Fortunately, Illinois offers several small-town options that will fit the needs and desires of retirees. From bustling suburbs with a rural feel to laidback small towns removed from the chaos in the metro areas, these charming localities have all the ingredients for an ideal retirement destination. They enjoy a slow pace of life with lush natural surroundings and plenty of outdoor opportunities to keep pensioners active. Furthermore, they can access robust medical and social amenities and receive tax breaks that would not burn through their pension. So, if you are considering spending your sunset years in the Land of Lincoln, these small towns in Illinois promise a strong quality of life for retirees. 


Old courthouse in Taylorville, Christian County, Illinois, United States
Old courthouse in Taylorville, Christian County, Illinois, United States

The small community of Taylorville houses about 11,000 residents, meaning there is ample room for retirees looking for a permanent home in this Christian County town. It delivers a charming balance between indoor and outdoor pursuits. At Christian County Historical Society & Museum, pensioners can enjoy a laid-back tour to acclimate to the town's colorful history. On the other hand, Taylorville Lake offers recreational opportunities like swimming, kayaking, water skiing, and motor boating, guaranteed to keep retirees active and entertained. 

Taylorville’s crime rate is lower than the state and national averages, with only 2 out of 1,000 residents reporting violent crime cases. Senior citizens have access to several adult living communities, including Taylorville Skilled Nursing and Rehab, and robust health care from the Taylorville Memorial Hospital. Furthermore, the cost of living is almost 20% lower than the national average, and when they need to feel a sense of belonging, they can mingle with the friendly townsfolk over a hot beverage at The Coffee Can. 


Main Street in the historical downtown area of Galena, Illinoi
Main Street in the historical downtown area of Galena, Illinois. Editorial credit: Dawid S Swierczek /

Galena’s charm lies in its historic main street, mild climate, and recreational opportunities. This quaint community of over 3,000 boasts a thriving downtown housing an eclectic mix of historical sites, art centers, and restaurants. Seniors will naturally gravitate towards the U.S. Grant Home State Historic Site, a great place to explore President Ulysses Grant's legacy as they ponder over their own. Outdoors, they can take advantage of recreation activities at Grant Park, which has a relaxed atmosphere with facilities like picnic tables, a gazebo, a pavilion, and basketball courts. The nearby Galena River also ensures spectacular water views. 

After working up an appetite from exploring the outdoors, pensioners can join other locals at Otto’s Place to savor a wholesome meal in a family-friendly atmosphere. Galena is twice safer than America’s crime average, with a cost of living almost $2,000 lower than the state and national averages. Also, homes have a median price of around $350,000, making it a fine deal in the country. 


Old courthouse in Macomb, Illinois
Old courthouse in Macomb, Illinois

Macomb is an excellent choice for retirees considering returning to school to keep their minds active and engaged. It is home to the Western Illinois University, which offers plenty of educational and cultural resources, including the Western Illinois Art Gallery. However, they can also keep the whole body active along multiple trails in the town. Spring Lake Park and Campground harbors diverse adventures, including hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and boating. Pensioners who prefer to stay indoors will find the perfect alternative at the Western Illinois Museum by perusing the exhibitions to explore the region's intricate history. 

Luckily, retirees do not have to keep looking over their shoulders in Macomb; the crime rate is about seven points lower than the national average. Also, the cost of living is almost 14% cheaper. In case of any medical emergencies, the McDonough District Hospital provides high-quality healthcare for the local community. 


Parlin Library, 210 E. Chestnut St. Canton, Illinois
Parlin Library, 210 E. Chestnut St. Canton, Illinois, By Stolehome - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

This quaint community in Fulton County presents a relaxed rural setting with a slow pace of life, ideal for retirement living. With a home median price quite below $150,000, pensioners do not have to sacrifice all their savings to own a residence in Canton. The town is also cheaper than the national average cost of living by 10%, in addition to a lower crime rate. Meanwhile, there are plenty of adventure opportunities in the over 1,400 acres of beautiful open space managed by the Canton Park District. Big Creek Park is one of the many nature spaces where seniors can access recreation like swimming, walking, picnicking, and more. 

Those who want to remain active in the after-hours can find plenty of joints to interact with other seniors over a glass of beer, including Brew N Cue or Billy’s Tap for great food and refreshing cocktails. Canton residents enjoy access to quality medical health at several town facilities, the most prominent being the Graham Health System. Also, pensioners who need social and physical support can find a helping hand at the Sunset Rehab & Health Care Nursing Home. 


Downtown Jacksonville, Illinois
Downtown Jacksonville, Illinois. Image credit: Randy von Liski via

A charming assortment of museums, galleries, pubs, and restaurants in a vibrant downtown corridor promises seniors an activity-filled retirement life in this small Morgan County town. Jacksonville harbors a rich historical heritage that seniors can learn more about at the Jacksonville Area Museum. A bastion of education, it hosts the state’s first degree-granting college, with Illinois College providing opportunities for seniors to advance their education even in their golden years. For art enthusiasts, the David Strawn Art Gallery exhibits an impressive collection of art pieces, making for a delightful indoor pursuit. 

Jacksonville offers retirees an easy route to owning a home, with a cheap median home price of about $155,000. It also has a low cost of living and a lower crime rate than the national average; your chances of being involved in violent crime are 1 in over 400. Further, the close-knit community cares for its elderly population with adult living centers like Cedarhurst of Jacksonville. At the same time, the Jacksonville Area Senior Center organizes programs, facilities, and activities for the well-being of the seniors in the town. 


Galesburg Illinois Watertown on the edge of town
Galesburg Illinois Watertown on the edge of town

This small town in Knox County is famous for being the birthplace of President George Washington and the Ferris wheel inventor, Gale Ferris. Steeped in railroad heritage, it has a rich and well-documented legacy straddling the Underground Railroad. Retirees will find plenty of historical gems throughout the Galesburg Historic District, including the Railroad Museum. The quaint facility exhibits several artifacts showcasing regional and national railroad history. It also hosts the Discovery Depot Children’s Museum, which will come in handy when the grandkids visit. For quality time outdoors, Lake Storey Park presents recreational opportunities like fishing, hiking, biking, and kayaking.

With over 20% of the population 65 years or older, newcomers will seamlessly blend into the senior community. The cost of living in Galesburg is notably lower than the national average and pensioners can find a nice home for under $100,000. They also have access to hospitals like OSF St. Mary Medical Center.  


Community Center in Millstadt, Illinois
Community Center in Millstadt, Illinois

This tiny, tight-knit community in St. Clair County welcomes seniors to revel in its simple way of life. It boasts a rich German heritage, with almost half of the demographic of German descent, promising a rich cultural experience. Millstadt provides various recreational activities, perfect for pensioners who want to indulge their inner child. Its notable attractions include the Xtreme Paintball Park and the Xtreme Tactical Laser Tag. Meanwhile, the Millstadt Community Center ensures the local senior population remains active by organizing various programs and activities for their health benefit. 

Seniors can also visit Fresh Pasture Farms to witness simple farm life and interact with free-range animals. Thanks to a strong sense of community, Millstadt enjoys a relatively safer environment than the national average, with a cheaper way of life, over 9% lower than the national average cost of living. Finally, the median home price is about $250,000. 


Exterior of downtown buildings and storefronts in DeKalb, Illinois
Exterior of downtown buildings and storefronts in DeKalb, Illinois, via Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Home to Northern Illinois University, this bustling town keeps pensioners engaged through lifelong learning programs. It boasts an upbeat vibe from the youthful college population and a thriving art scene, with live performances staged at venues like Egyptian Theater and Stage Coach Players. DeKalb houses several historic sites offering a window into its vibrant past, including the Ellwood House Museum, which vividly depicts life in Victorian-era DeKalb. It also has an extensive system of trails connecting parks like Prairie Park, where senior citizens can walk, hike, or bike to maintain an active lifestyle. 

With the median home price ranging around $250,000 and the cost of living lower than the national average, retirees would not have to worry about burning through their pension. Also, they can access quality healthcare at Northwestern Medicine KishHealth, which operates a 98-bed facility with over 150 physicians on rotation. 

Winding Up

If you are looking to spend your retirement life in a peaceful rural location in United States surrounded by rich nature without sacrificing all the big-city amenities, these small towns in Illinois come closest to balancing the two. From affordable housing, cheap living costs, and low crime rates to green outdoor spaces, rich cultural scenery, and access to quality social and health facilities, they have all the hallmarks of the ideal retirement environment. Settling in any of them after calling time on your career means you can look forward to a high quality of life in your golden years. 

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