Retirees Not Just after Fun in Sun

By Kris Axtman writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

Retirees Not Just after Fun in Sun


Kris Axtman writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Jean and Erwin Anderson left the small farming town of Wahpeton, N.D., as a young couple. Their jobs took them to New York, San Francisco, Minneapolis.

But when it came to retiring, they weren't lured by warm weather or previous adventures. They moved to Ottertail Lake in Minnesota, 40 miles from Wahpeton - close enough to family and friends, says Mrs. Anderson, but far enough to feel like they've gotten away from it all.

While it may seem as if retirees are interested in spending their days playing golf and basking in the sun, the reality is that lifestyles don't change much when people retire. Studies show that 90 percent of seniors are unwilling to move more than 100 miles from home after they retire.

The realization that a seersucker climate isn't everything - while perhaps coming as a news flash to Florida - is beginning to change America's definition of "retirement community." Like the Andersons, new retirees are leaving big Northern cities, but often they're going no further than in-state tourist spots - Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the Dells in Wisconsin, the Poconos in Pennsylvania.

"Communities within striking distance of major metropolitan areas" like Boston, Chicago, and New York "are ripe for development," says Charles Longino Jr., director of the Reynolda Gerontology Program at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Leading retirement developer Del Webb Corp. has finally caught on to this trend. Two years ago, it opened its first Sun City in the Frost Belt - and found it was filling up as quickly as those in the Sun Belt. "This development has been very successful," says Harriet Ford with the new Sun City in Huntley, Ill. "There was definitely a pent-up demand for this type of option."

Del Webb is considering other "four-season" communities. Smaller northern cities may become the retirement meccas of the new millennium as baby boomers near age 65.

According to the US Administration on Aging, more than half of those over 65 live in only nine states, including Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Most didn't move far when they retired, for a variety of reasons from a desire to stay close to family and friends to familiarity with their surroundings. A Del Webb survey last year found that 82 percent of respondents plan to stay in-state when they retire.

Kitty Voss and Peter Grossman are one such couple. Born and raised in Chicago, the two recently retired to the newest Sun City in Huntley, about 45 miles north of downtown. …

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