Friday, May 16, 2014

Retiring "North"-What do I Think Now

A year and two months ago, I moved to what I jokingly called at the time the "cold, cold north" of Colorado after living in Texas for six years. My choices for moving at that time were varied, with none of them being specifically "retirement lifestyle" at the time.  As is true for most retirees, my decisions were influenced by downsizing, proximity to family and other criteria.

Recently Tom over at Sightings at Sixty discussed the recent Bankrate article about best places to retire.  That article lists Florida and Texas fairly well down the list, with the top states including Colorado, South Dakota, Virginia (the only coastal state, and where I could also happily live indefinitely), Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Utah.  Obviously what stands out here as that most of these states (except Virginia) are non coastal-middle of America type locations. Statistics are just that, and one can pile up statistics in any direction, certainly.  In this case, these results were based on average well being of the population, cost of living, health care options, tax burdens, crime, average sunshine and humidity.  For those who live in Oregon and Washington, I expect it's that average sunshine that eliminated those states more than anything else.

This doesn't mean that everyone is moving to any of these places, but yes, retirees willingly move to Montana, the Dakotas and Boise. Someone on Tom's blog commented that retirees were moving south in droves-and that's partially true. Many however, are not moving all the way south, but to more middling areas (Virginia, for example).  While one's first reaction may be, "but they're cold", looking at the weather of the past year, most of these places have experienced mild to moderate four season weather, unlike our friends east and west (and south) of us.

The truth is that sometime around February or March I did comment once or twice about being a "sun bird". And, more importantly, I have those days when I jones for an ocean view. The bottom line though is that this area, has for me, become a satisfying retirement place for the most part-and I thought I would share why.  Some of my reasons are specific to Denver and the mountain states, and some would be true of some medium sized towns anywhere.
  • The weather.  Colorado is (mainly) sunny all year around.  Because it's literally a mile high, temperatures feel almost ten degrees warmer when the sun is shining.  People can wear shorts at forty or fifty degrees.  The summers are hot and dry-but cool enough that one can take a walk after dinner.  Even deeps snows usually melt off a day or so later as opposed to hanging on until spring as in many other areas of the country.  You can ski in June and sunbathe in January.
  • You can generally be outside at almost every time of day at almost every time of year-a direct correlation to the weather.  In the summer there is no need to have the air conditioner on for three or four months and avoid the garden in the middle of the day.
  • In terms of my retirement travel, Colorado is pretty much centrally located (as well as having mass transportation options galore). I have an extremely large number of one and two day trips in any direction thanks to geography. Amtrak has just opened a new station for train travelers, and DIA is a huge travel hub.
  • There's lots of incentive to be healthy and active-and I don't mean just water aerobics (and I love water aerobics).  Fifty plus alternatives in local meet ups include biking, hiking, and climbing as well as lots of walking.  In Denver, shirtless middle aged men play volleyball in the park-and it's normal. I mean you can rent a bike, literally, almost anywhere.
  • While there are retirement communities and retirement homes, the majority of people I have met who have chosen to retire here deliberately retire to diverse areas that includes all ages, which is important to me. 
  • As a with many moderately sized cities with close in suburbs, Denver has ample opportunity for low cost and reasonably priced activities on all spectrum's as well as more expensive opportunities. There is never, ever a lack of choice of things to do and most of those things are reasonably priced and easily accessible.
  • You get to choose your level of laid back-ness and it all works. I can read on the patio and take a nap, or choose to fill the day from dawn until dusk. And no one bugs you, whichever your choice, and you all get to hang out at the end of the day..
  • It's a diverse community, that pays little attention to age overall. My knitting group is made up of ages 25 to around 70. College students interact and socialize with retirees and the opposite is true.  Retirees who prefer this kind of community will find these kind of areas a plus. Uniqueness is embraced-I can wear heavy socks with sandals in the winter and no one gives me a second glance.
  • The scenery. The scenery.  The scenery. I say that as a woman who lived near the rolling hills of Virginia and near the Chesapeake for over 20 years.
  • It's the healthiest state in the country with easy access to excellent health care facilities in every direction. 
  • And finally because in Denver, you're only a senior citizen if you feel like one.
Those are not all the reasons I'm happy with this choice, for sure. I could go on for quite awhile.  The beer (and the brewpubs). The best record store and independent bookstore in the world.  That small green leaf, which I appreciate not for what it can do for me, but for what it's legalization represents in terms of openness and lifestyle. The fact that the city has an amusement park. In the middle of downtown Denver. But those things have more to do about living in Denver than retiring in Denver-and would be worth discussions in their own right.

Life is not perfect in any one place. Next year, I will probably schedule travel between Christmas and Mother's day, using that time to visit family, go to the beach and consider an annual beach rental option (maybe even at a retirement community). There is small cost differential for choosing this lifestyle.

Meanwhile though, my days are as full as I want them to be, my retirement is in full swing, and I'm thinking I should have done this one a few years ago!

Oh, and one more thing. Southpark??  It really does exist.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful choice. Especially the parts about the sun and the age diversity.

  2. I like your perspective, and your analysis. As for me, while I do not like the winter cold of the northeast, I don't think I could take the 100+ degrees of Florida or Phoenix in the summer. As for Colorado -- it sounds nice, but I'm a flatlander. I like the humidity, and the oxygen, you get at 0 feet altitude.

  3. I think you made the right choice for you.

    God bless.

  4. As I read this, the phrase "No matter where you go, there you are" comes to mind. Barb, it seems that you know what interests you and you seek those activities in the community you're in. Good on you. I'm convinced that there are other places to live but not necessarily better, just different. I'm also convinced that there are advantages/disadvantages in any setting we choose to live. In NE Alberta, spring has arrived and the seasonal chores related to yard and garden work begins after a long winter's "nap". These seasonal demands and opportunities cause us to go hard from spring through fall, then the winter offers some quiet respite, once the snow is removed, of course!

  5. Barb, when I saw that list -- Colorado at #2 -- I immediately thought of you. I have a cousin who lives near Denver, as well, and I know he loves it. But as for me, I'm a flatlander. I can't take that thin air -- I need my oxygen, my humidity, my smog and dirt. But, like you suggest, a chacun son gout -- I even know someone who retired to New Hampshire!


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