National spotlight: AARP names GJ as one of top five cities to retire

By: Taylor Temby Email
By: Taylor Temby Email

Grand Junction has a way of landing in the national spotlight, most recently with President Obama and Governor Romney’s visits to the Valley. Now, Grand Junction is making national news again.

The AARP, or American Association of Retired Persons, has the world's largest-circulated magazine. If you flipped through the pages of the most recent issue of AARP Magazine, you may have noticed the place we call home was named as one of the “Best Places to Live on $100 A Day” for retired persons. KKCO 11 News found out why we were chosen in the Top 5, and how this news is affecting our city.

Where are you going to move after you retire? It’s a question resident John Hopkins received from people all across the country when he retired as the Rocky Mountain Health Plans C.E.O. three years ago.

"We had never even considered living anywhere else," Hopkins said.

Hopkins and his wife have called Grand Junction home for 35 years. As far as he’s concerned, there’s no intention of ever leaving.

"This place just has everything we're looking for. It has all of the outdoor activities that we enjoy, it has the community spirit we enjoy, and it’s a nice size of community," Hopkins said.

That was the message he gave AARP Magazine for its story on the best places to retire. He’s quoted in the magazine.

"[AARP was] going to be writing this article with regard to places to retire that were economical," Chamber of Commerce C.E.O. Diane Schwenke said.

The magazine contacted the Grand Junction Chamber about three months ago to get information about the city and inform them of the decision to include Grand Junction as one of its top 5 cities to retire. The story credits Grand Junction’s inexpensive but plentiful recreation options, quaint downtown area and of course, housing and living affordability.

"We’ve started to see just a little bit of a pick-up in requests for relocation information," Schwenke said of the article’s impact.

Schwenke says this type of exposure will drive future retiree decisions, and maybe sway more to make Grand Junction their final home four to five years from now. Already this year, however, local real estate brokers say they’ve seen an increase in the number of retirees looking for housing in the area.

"Lowest [housing] prices I’ve seen in a long time," Bray Real Estate broker Linda Gilmore said.
“As far as a small city, there's so much to do around here. We have a good university, so if they want to take classes they can do that, we have a symphony, [and] we have an art center."'

Gilmore also says this national exposure and the want to get out of bigger cities is another reason some look to retire in Grand Junction. According to the Bray Report, the median price of homes in Mesa County is $165,000.

Grand Junction provides homes for children, adults and families alike. For retirees, however, this really is the life.

"Retired life is wonderful. It's a really nice time of life," Hopkins said.

Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Omaha and Gainesville, Fla. Joined Grand Junction in the AARP’s top five places to retire.

This article can be found in the August/September 2012 AARP Magazine issue.

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