Now, there are probably a lot of people who are wondering what college towns have to do with retirement life. We would have been among that group before we started scouting around and visiting the colleges our children showed an interest in. As our children entered high school we arranged our summer vacations in such a way that it wasn’t too far from the schools they were showing some interest in. We hit the jackpot with our New England vacation along Cape Ann because our daughter had sent for information from three schools in that area.
What we witnessed were vibrant campuses that were a far cry from my experiences of the early 70’s. Perhaps it was because it was a different time in my life where I knew I had to go to college but had no idea about what to study, but what I was seeing now was the wide assortment of interests and activities supported by the beautiful universities that we visited. George Bernard Shaw wrote that “youth is wasted on the young” and that quote came back to me as we walked the grounds and seemed to be returning to a period of my life but experiencing it again in a much different and more appreciative way. As we walked through the Student Union and saw the food courts, my wife and I looked at each and said “we could retire here” and, as it turns out, some people do exactly that.
Many articles focused on retirement lists college towns among the top locations to retire to because of the cultural activities and educational opportunities that seem to be abundant wherever institutions of higher learning exist. Some colleges even offer classroom audit privileges for seniors at a very reduced rate. If the college is a large one, lectures, concerts, sports and plays are part of the academic calendar and you’ll find the prices represent a great value compared to Broadway.
College towns are usually in more affluent areas as well, so the recreational activities are quite diverse as well. Not only will you find nice golf courses, but the restaurants tend to be a bit better too. We have been charmed by many little towns that feature top schools. Charlottesville, Burlington, Chapel Hill and College Park are just a few of the towns that we’ve fallen in love with. And, if those are too big for you, there’s always the university system of New York in places like Potsdam, Cortland and New Paltz that will provide a vibrant calendar of activities and beautiful scenery as well.
Living in these areas can be a little more expensive than the norm so keep that in mind. For us, theater and other cultural activities are important but, having lived on Long Island, traveling ninety minutes into Manhattan for a show was something we got used to. We have a number of local theaters within an hour of where we live so living directly in a college town is not a priority.
As you make your list of living requirements, keep in mind what’s important to you. Make your list and start to think things through and determine what’s most important. If you’re still approaching retirement, keep an open mind as you travel. Take a little extra time and experience the smaller “Main Streets” that can be found just off the main road. Do a little research, paying extra attention to those surveys that name the Best Small Towns in America. And, if you like where you live now, that’s perfect – just take a moment to play your life out and take into account how things can change. Will your children or your friends move away? Will what makes your town attractive now be what you’re looking for in ten or fifteen years. It’s worth considering and discussing it fully. Moving earlier on in your retired years is much easier and much more realistic than when you’re in your late seventies or early eighties. It’s just something to consider as you move forward. The goal is always to Enjoy Retired Life.