Retirement in Iowa - Iowa City Ranked Among The Best Places To Retire
Retirement living in Iowa is, as could be expected, not about sprawling master planned communities, high-rise waterfront condos or expansive and expensive country club golf resorts. Rather, here is a region where retirees are drawn by traditional family values and a quality of life grounded in traditional, small town sensibilities and attitudes. Such characteristics are to be expected in a State with a strong agrarian economy where, for generations, family life has revolved around farming and small towns.
Today, as many of the baby boomer generation are searching for a slower paced lifestyle and opting for lifestyle change that eliminates the frenzy and congestion of urban living, places like Iowa City, Cedar Falls, Ames, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo are attracting attention from national publications as great places to retire. Notwithstanding Iowa's potential for harsh winters and its above average taxes, factors such as its overall lower cost of living and its reputation for the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens have prompted many experts to rank the State very high on their list of suggested retirement destinations.
A prime example of this trend is Iowa City, which was named by Money Magazine as one of the five best places to retire in 2005. Before that recognition, the New York Times had touted the advantages of this mid-size university town, describing it as "... a city of bursting bookstores, leafy old neighborhoods and friendly shopkeepers, set amid rolling Iowa farmland and where nearly half the 63,000 residents are students."
The University of Iowa's renowned Writers' Workshop has contributed greatly to the city's reputation as a cultural center, having been attended by some of the nation's greatest literary figures over the course of its seventy-year history. Primarily a two-year residency program for graduate students seeking a master's degree, the Workshop also brings aspiring writers to Iowa City for summer study and to exchange ideas in the spirit of an arts colony and foster American literature in a variety of forms.
This tradition of learning and appreciation of literary achievement has contributed to an enriched cultural and artistic environment which provides residents of Iowa City with a strong and vibrant series of dramatic and musical performances, including a summer series of weekly downtown jazz and pop concerts and a schedule of events throughout the year for major poets, writers, historians and others, appearing in University venues and local bookstores.
In fact, with the 12,000-piece collection at the University of Iowa Museum of Art, an annual Jazz Festival, five live theaters, literary readings, dance recitals and concerts, retirees find that there is little opportunity for anyone to complain about boredom. For those who want to continue their educational pursuits, the Senior College offers a wide selection of courses taught by retired professors at very nominal fees.
When the neighboring communities of Coralville, North Liberty, Solon and several other nearby small towns are included, the Iowa City area has a total population of about 100,000. With its excellent hospital and medical facilities, clean, safe and comfortable residential neighborhoods, the fun and excitement of the Big Ten's collegiate athletic contests and a highly educated citizenry, it is not hard to understand why the region as a whole continues to appear on so many lists of "great places to live."
Also, retirees in the area find the nearby countryside, good state parks, and the Iowa River provide many opportunities for walking, biking, and boating. Adding to the convenience of living here is the fact that, twenty miles to the north, is Cedar Rapids, Iowa's second-largest city, home to the Eastern Iowa Airport and a population of about 120,000.
In addition, the small towns of Cedar Falls and Waterloo are worth consideration for anyone thinking of Eastern Iowa as a retirement destination. Cedar Falls is home to The University of Northern Iowa, where the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center serves as the region's premier performance venue and home to the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony. The Waterloo Center for the Arts, located along the banks of the scenic Cedar River, features Midwest artists and the nation's largest public collection of Haitian Art. Also in the same general area is the Amana Colonies arts community, a historic collection of seven German villages that house many historical sites, furniture and clock making shops, wineries, bakeries and Iowa's only woolen mill.
While Iowa City may in the spotlight as a place to retire, there several other Iowa cities and towns that should not be overlooked as possible retirement choices. For one, Des Moines, the state capital and its largest city, is very affordable, has excellent schools and a thriving economy. There, several quiet, comfortable neighborhoods are very suitable for retirement living. Ames, just a short drive north of Des Moines and home to Iowa State University, is another small college town that has many of the lifestyle advantages of a larger city and has been ranked as the nation's second most livable small town.
Without question, Iowa may not be the perfect spot to live for everyone, but if your retirement plans do not require a resort environment or urban-centered lifestyle, there are definitely a number of communities here that merit consideration, especially if affordability and quality of life are factors.
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