At first blush, being singled-out as one of America’s best places to retire might seem like a dubious distinction in a culture that celebrates youth and scorns aging. Stereotyped to the max on TV shows like Seinfeld and The Golden Girls—and in films like Cocoon—the typical Florida retiree is usually depicted as a curmudgeonly old man or loopy old woman—or vice versa—who get their kicks tossing off salty one-liners at a dithering spouse, roommate or long-suffering offspring.
Now, just as they’ve redefined every phase of their lives, Baby Boomers have taken society’s idea of retirement and turned it on its ear. Don’t expect Boomers to dodder quietly over to their porch rockers; for even in retirement, they’re completely re-ordering the way communities perceive their worth and cater to their needs. They’re healthy, active, adventurous, and fit; and able to consume and contribute as much as ever. Moreover, they are very demanding of where they live and expect in retirement the same sort of recreational, cultural and health-related amenities they’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
Nowadays, if your town is named one of America’s ten best places to retire it clearly has its act together and is poised for even greater prosperity down the road. It takes much more than warm weather and clear skies to satisfy Boomers and the larger generations of retirees to follow. For this reason we heartily congratulate Venice, Port Charlotte, Englewood and Punta Gorda for consistently receiving top recognition as four of America’s foremost places to retire and live well.
This year Port Charlotte was named best place to retire by CNNMoney.com. Last year, Punta Gorda was named one of the healthiest places to retire by U.S. News & World Report. The year before Venice topped the U.S. News list. Meanwhile, with five natural beaches, world-class fishing, unusual boutiques, and ample golfing it is no surprise that nearby Englewood has been listed as the number two U.S. destination to visit in 2009 by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel community.
In naming Port Charlotte as this year’s top retirement destination, CNNMoney.com wisely factored-in the huge bonus of the region’s bottoming housing market. No small consideration for buyers hoping to squeeze the most out of their retirement budgets.
“Homes here cost less than half what they did in late 2005,” the article said. “And about 40% of them sit on canals and waterways leading to the harbor—which has 270 miles of cruising waters and 219 miles of protected shoreline. But H2O is far from the only reason to move here. The area boasts top-notch medical facilities; and the town’s Cultural Center houses a 500-seat theater that offers year-round classes in everything from Japanese embroidery to belly dancing. And there’s great bird watching in 42,000-acre Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, which has hundreds of available species and is crisscrossed with hiking trails and kayaking blueways. The lack of a Florida tax on income—including interest and dividend income—only sweetens the deal.”
It should come as no surprise that Venice also regularly tops America’s list of best places to retire. It was always planned that way. Designed and built in the 1920’s, Venice was bankrolled by The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers who developed the town as a place for its members to retire.
“Venice has turned into the charming core of a Gulf Coast community that has boomed since the 1980’s,” said U.S. News & World Report in naming it to its list of top places to retire. “Most of its recent growth spreads into the surrounding county in the form of typically modern developments; often in the form of gated subdivisions that hug a dozen or so championship golf courses. Venice has a superb hospital, art center, social clubs, award-winning community theater and events big and small, including weekly jazz concerts in one of its many municipal parks.”
Since earning the accolade two years ago, real estate prices in Venice—similar to Port Charlotte, Englewood and other prime coastal markets along Florida’s West Coast—have fallen off dramatically and now appear to be bottoming; a major plus for inbound retirees.
Though its Spanish name, Punta Gorda, literally translates to “fat point,” the reference is to the city’s position on land jutting into the wide mouth of Charlotte Harbor; and not a snarky comment on the lifestyle. In fact, last year the town topped U.S. News’ list of the healthiest places in America to retire.
Punta Gorda is all about an active, water-oriented lifestyle in a gorgeously-rendered coastal village. The protected waters of Charlotte Harbor beckon to a retirement of boating, world-class game fishing, and other pursuits enhanced by sun, sea and salt air.
Of course, Sarasota and Bradenton perennially top virtually every noteworthy list of places to retire and live well, especially if the visual and performing arts figure prominently on your list of things to do now that time is on your side. Here, warm sunny days filled with every imaginable recreational opportunity yield to balmy nights packed with an amazing assortment of cultural, entertainment and culinary pursuits. Furthermore, as real estate guru Barbara Corcoran recently advised viewers of the Today Show, Sarasota-Bradenton is the most undervalued real estate market in the country, offering—at least for now—an equally amazing assortment of value-priced housing opportunities.
Retirees are a major boon to our region; bringing with them lifetimes of personal and professional experiences that translate to a tremendous asset for communities up and down the Gulf Coast. In between pursuing long deferred interests—pushed aside by the rigors of family and career—they are among the most gifted volunteers in a region that derives much of its greatness from the cultural and philanthropic organizations they donate much of their time and talents to. Forget the shuffleboard and rocking chairs. Retirement rocks in a whole new way in Southwest Florida.
*Photo Credit: americanlandandlease.com