If there’s one thing we like about Central Pennsylvania, it has to be the astounding variety of its landscapes. The majestic Appalachian Mountains stand in contrast to the rolling hills of Lancaster County, while the Susquehanna River Valley is more low-lying and pastoral.
There's also a good selection of large, mid-sized, and small cities here, like Harrisburg, Lititz, and Myerstown, and each is appealing in different ways. So whether your retirement plans call for suburban living, urban living, or somewhere out in the countryside, you’re sure to find the perfect active adult neighborhood among Central Pennsylvania’s 35 choices. Narrowing it down may take time, so we’ve put together an informative list of everything you need to know about this region before making your decision.
Below you can learn more about The Keystone State’s weather, taxes, regions, and pros and cons of living there.
Retiring in Central Pennsylvania: Pros and Cons
Excellent recreation opportunities. Central PA’s varied topography means endless indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities for active adults. Some of the best known outside attractions include Valley Forge, Gettysburg National Military Park, the Pocono Mountains, and the many farms, farmers markets, and quaint towns in Lancaster. Bethlehem makes for worthy day trips, and Harrisburg and Hershey are modern cities with historical attractions, modern amenities, and Hersheypark.
A low cost of living. Another plus to living in PA is its cost of living. Compared to the national average, Pennsylvania is only one percent higher. It's also tax-friendly for retirees, which we’ll get into shortly.
Far from major cities. If you want to live near a major metropolitan area like Philadelphia, Central PA may not be for you; Philly is about a 90-minute drive away. Harrisburg is much, much smaller, but it does have an international airport, fine restaurants, museums, and everything else you’d expect from a large city.
Alcohol restrictions. Like the rest of PA, there are restrictions for purchasing alcohol—it cannot be bought at privately owned stores or gas stations. Spirits and wine are sold at government stores, but wine and beer can be bought at other outlets.
Central Pennsylvania Climate
In general, PA summers are humid and the winters are cold; most of the state is classified as humid continental. If you live near Central PA’s mountains, you can expect cloudier skies and lower temperatures. In Harrisburg, the average high and low temperatures for January are 38 and 23 degrees, respectively. For July, high and lows average at 86 and 66 degrees. You can also expect these to drop a bit as you head north towards cities like Lebanon.
Central Pennsylvania Taxes
Pennsylvania doesn't tax retirement income, making it especially attractive for retirees. There are inheritance and estate taxes, though; 4.5 percent to direct descendants and 12 percent to siblings. This doesn't apply to transfers to surviving spouses. The current sales tax rate is six percent, with exemptions for food, clothing, parking, and some recreation industries.
Central Pennsylvania Property Taxes
Pennsylvania property taxes are collected on county levels, and each assesses and collects them according to their own laws. On average, 1.35 percent of a property’s fair market value is collected for property tax. The median property tax in Pennsylvania is $2,223 per year for a home worth the median value of $164,700. This ranks PA as the 16th state in the amount of property taxes collected.
Central Pennsylvania Retirement Income Taxes
Pennsylvania doesn't tax retirement income such as IRAs, 401(k)s, pensions, and Social Security, making it a tax-friendly retirement state. Those who work in PA pay a flat 3.07 income tax rate.
Central Pennsylvania Tax Exemptions for Seniors
Pennsylvania residents ages 65 and up may qualify for housing rebates through Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. Those who own homes and have annual household incomes not more than $35,000 may apply for property tax rebates that average around $650. Renters may also be eligible if their income falls below $15,000. Another option is the state’s homestead or farmstead exclusion, which can reduce the property’s assessed value and lower the homeowner’s tax burden.
Central Pennsylvania Health Care
In total, there are over 250 hospitals in PA, and 13 of them are nationally ranked. In addition to the standouts we mentioned earlier, Central PA has Wellspan Gettysburg, Geisinger Holy Spirit, and Lancaster General. For every 100,000 residents in PA, there are over 300 active physicians.
Where to Live in Central Pennsylvania
Here's some information about what it’s like to live in some of Central PA’s more populated regions. We’ve also included two recommended active adult neighborhoods with available homes for sale in each.
The capital of PA has a population of over 49,000, and its eight retirement communities are set outside of the city’s center. It has more of a small-town atmosphere than the state’s larger cities, and the cost of living is below the national average. In addition to Gettysburg National Park, two of its most popular attractions include Mont Alto State Park and Mount Hope Winery.
Recommended 55+ Communities:
U.S. News & World Report ranks Lancaster, Pennsylvania as the third best area to retire in the country. It has a mix of natural and commercial space, close-knit towns, Amish communities, covered bridges, and some of the best bakeries in the state. Favorite leisure time activities include riding the Strasburg Railroad, seeing shows at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater, and touring the county’s many covered bridges, wineries, and breweries.
Recommended 55+ Communities:
Things move a bit slower in the Lebanon area, where locals enjoy beautiful landscapes, low-key lifestyles, and a lower cost of living. Here, you'll find the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails greenway, Mt. Gretna Lake, and the Lebanon Farmers Market.
Recommended 55+ Communities: