Illinois - Retirement Living In An Urban or Rural Lifestyle
As a potential retirement destination, Illinois is generally not thought of in the same terms as such states as Florida, Arizona or the Carolinas. Yet, many seniors find sufficient reason to make Illinois their destination of choice for retirement living. With an interesting balance of rural areas, smaller mid-sized cities, vast suburbs and the great metropolis of Chicago among their available options, retirees, particularly those already residing in the state, often find that staying close to their existing home is preferable to and usually more affordable than moving to the Sun Belt. And the fact that families and friends are still close by and readily accessible is a significant factor for many.
Developers of retirement communities have already recognized the size of the potential retirement market in a state that ranks as the nation’s fifth largest population, and in recent years, have aggressively pursued the construction of a number of residential communities specifically targeted toward the active adult market. The majority of these have been located in the numerous suburban towns of the vast Chicagoland area, small towns such as Hoffman Estates, Elgin, Mundelein and Shorewood. And in Huntley, Del Webb Communities, a major national developer of adult residential villages, is building a master-planned community for active adult living that, when completed will have 6,000 homes, the largest such project in the Midwest.
One of the more popular retirement areas is Naperville, which, although listed in 2002 by the AARP as one of its “top ten small towns for senior citizens,” is actually the fourth largest city in Illinois, with a population in excess of 140,000. Rapid growth and congestion can be considered as minor deterrents, but its abundant green spaces, a thriving downtown and proximity to Chicago make Naperville a highly desirable place to live.
Other smaller suburban communities, notably Wilmette, Deerfield and Palos Park, as well several neighboring towns, continue to attract retirees because of their quiet, tree-lined residential neighborhoods, reasonable housing costs and quality of life.
For someone wishing to spend their retirement years in the peace and tranquility of the rural countryside, as opposed to an urban setting or the suburbs, Illinois has much to offer. In the northwestern corner of the state, near the banks of the Mississippi River, Galena is a charming village of 3,600 people that is being discovered by a growing influx of artists, craftspeople and thespians, drawn to the area by the beautiful bluffs and scenic valleys which seem to inspire a steady stream of creativity. Others are attracted by the many opportunities for outdoor recreation, especially water sports, either in the form of trout fishing on quiet, secluded streams or boating on the mighty Mississippi.
In fact, Illinois’ entire western border is formed by the river’s 550-mile route, which offers spectacular breathtaking river bluffs and is sprinkled with charming river towns. Near the southern end of this river route, at the confluence of three great American rivers - the Mississippi, the Illinois and the Missouri is that part of Illinois known as the River Bend Region, marked by stunning bluffs, historic sites and rolling countryside. Included in this area are several quaint villages…Alton, Elsah, Godfrey, Wood River and others…that, because of their affordability, laid back atmosphere, sense of history and beautiful surroundings are appealing to retirees.
Elsah, with a population of less than 700 and often referred to as the "village where time stood still," is a place where one can turn back the clock and take a leisurely stroll through a quaint little village which was in its entirety placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once an important steamboat landing, Elsah is today town known for its picturesque beauty, stone houses and lush gardens.
One of the more interesting towns for retirement living in the River Bend Region is Alton, where the main business district fronts the Mississippi River and many of the nearby streets are still paved with brick, a natural setting for the many mid-19th century buildings and Victorian homes still found there. Located just thirty miles from St. Louis, Alton’s 30,000 residents enjoy the advantages of small town living and, yet, are relatively close to urban shopping, professional sporting events and excellent medical facilities.
Yet another feature that is adding to the popularity of Illinois as a retirement destination is the number of attractive college towns within its borders. Across the nation, there is a growing trend among retirees to select small and medium sized cities as their choice for a place to retire, and in this vein, Illinois offers a number of appealing choices, with the Champaign-Urbana area, home of the University of Illinois, being the most notable. Other college towns worthy of consideration are Carbondale, Charleston and Macomb. Each of these presents an environment where retirees can find a variety of artistic and cultural activities available in a small town setting.
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