Why Retiring to a College Town Makes Sense
Believe it or not, the vibrant lifestyle of living in a campus community can be incredibly appealing and advantageous to retirees. Aside from a return to youthful glory days, retiring to a college town comes with a host of built-in benefits geared for the retiree lifestyle.
What Is Considered a College Town?
While there are colleges and universities in towns, suburbs, and cities, not every locale is truly a college town. The American Institute for Economic Research defines a college town as a location with a college or university as a central part of the community and fewer than 250,000 residents. AIER's annual list of Top 20 College Towns is selected based on student life, culture, economic health, and opportunity. Some of that criteria apply to retirees as well.
Boulder, Colorado, home of the University of Colorado's flagship campus, sat at the top of the list this year. There are also small metro areas, between 250,000 and 1 million residents, that still maintain a college town feel including Ann Arbor, Michigan; Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Gainesville, Florida. Though designed for students, AIER's College Destination Index can also help retirees hone in on their perfect college area with criteria such as city access, arts and entertainment, labor-force participation, and rent.
University Medical Care
Top-notch healthcare is one of the biggest advantages of college town retirement. University medical centers are often at the leading edge of research, technology, and patient care. Many of the best university medical centers, according to U.S. News & World Report's nationwide hospital rankings, are located in large cities or metro areas.
College towns with nationally ranked university healthcare systems include Iowa City (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics) and Charlottesville, Virginia (University of Virginia Medical Center). The University of Colorado Hospital is located in Aurora, Colorado, just 15 minutes away from its Boulder campus. While the college town of Rochester, Minnesota doesn't have a university healthcare system, it does have Mayo Clinic, the nation's top hospital.
Programs Geared toward Seniors
College towns offer the obvious smorgasbord of extracurricular activities, open to the community such as attending plays, concerts, or sporting events. Time ranked the best colleges for sports lovers, while if you're an art lover or thespian at heart, look for a university with its own art museum and robust performing arts program.
In recent years, colleges and universities have focused on enticing baby boomers to spend their golden years nearby. Some even allow senior citizens to take college courses for free, which is a great way to stay intellectually engaged after you retire.
Check Out the Rankings
If you had your heart set on a traditional retirement community — or require assisted living — college towns have you covered through formal partnerships known as University-Based Retirement Communities (UBRC). There are more than 100 UBRCs nationwide, according to SeniorList.
Once you narrow it down, go on some "campus tours," so to speak, checking out the college and the community to see if it meets your retirement requirements.