ARCHIVED  November 1, 1997

Northern Colorado emerges as mecca for active retirees

Call it the Golden Rush.
Retirees from throughout the country are flocking to Northern Colorado to spend their later years in culturally rich college towns and locate near other family members, experts say.
Although no economic agencies here track the influx of retirees into the region, real-estate agents and other professionals say they˜ve detected a sharp increase in the number of seniors moving here in recent years.
Many retirees move here from Iowa, Michigan and other Midwestern states, said Sharianne Daily, president of The Group Inc., a real-estate firm in Fort Collins.
"It has to do with the weather and the Colorado sunshine," she said. "The majority move because of the proximity of family members. They˜re very active and retired."
Currently, the average price for a home in Fort Collins is $155,177. Daily said that about 25 percent of her firm˜s market is relocating buyers moving here from other cities.
The region also has received publicity in retirement magazines about its high quality of life.
In fact, about two years ago, the magazine New Choices in Retirement named Fort Collins one of the 12 best cities in the country for retirement, she said.
Marianne Wolfe, real estate associate agent with Coldwell Banker, Everitt & Williams Real Estate in Fort Collins, said she has sold several patio homes to retirees moving here from Michigan, Delaware and other states.
The homes ranged in price from $150,000 to $225,000, and all had two bedrooms with a den. Home sizes ranged from 1,280 to 1,700 square feet.
Generally, people moving in from out of state have friends or relatives here and are familiar with the area and like it, she said. The age range of retirement buyers starts in the late 50s and goes up, she said.
Often, these buyers have looked around in other states for a new community in which to retire.
"These people look at news writeups, and they travel a lot," she said.
One indication of the growth in the number of retirees to the area is the increased usage of the Fort Collins Senior Center, which opened in June 1995.
Although the Senior Center does not track the number of people moving into the area, it has noticed an increase in participation there, said Steve Budner, program administrator.
"Older citizens are moving in, and Fort Collins attracts retirees," he said.
The city-operated Senior Center offers educational and wellness programs, trips and travel, a gymnasium with six basketball courts, a four-lane lap pool, running track, arts and crafts, and dance instruction. About 150 people usually turn out for the center˜s dances, he said.
The 1997 budget for the Senior Center was $314,000, Budner said. However, he said the center expects to generate revenues of up to $300,000 from fees this year.
"We hope it will be a break-even operation soon," Budner said.
Open to everyone regardless of age, the center offers discounts to people 60 and older. However, baby boomers also are encouraged to use the facility and grow with it, Budner said.
Currently, Fort Collins has a population of 106,000, and it has been growing at about 3 percent a year for the last several years. The population is projected to reach 150,000 by the year 2015, said Barry Howell, membership development coordinator for the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.
"So much development is going on in the residential market," he said.
According to a 1994 survey, the latest data available, some 15.8 percent of the city˜s population was 50 and older. Some 21.8 percent of the population ranged in age from 35 to 49.
The breakdown for other age groups was 22.9 percent for residents under 18 years of age; 21.1 percent for ages 18 to 24; and 18.4 percent for ages 25 to 34.
Howell said the chamber has noticed an increased interest in the area as a mecca for retirees, but it doesn˜t calculate the number of retirement-age people moving here.
College towns particularly appeal to retirees because they˜re often small enough to provide a sense of community while also offering a wealth of cultural attractions, said John Green, an economics professor with the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
He noted that neighbors of his in Fort Collins include a retired couple from California who both held executive jobs and a retired high-school teacher from Illinois who spent three years checking out different college towns in the region before deciding to settle in Fort Collins.
In recent years, Social Security payments also have increased in this region, indicating that the number of retirees in Northern Colorado is growing, Green said.
The American Association of Retired Persons chapter in Fort Collins now has about 600 members, said Lewis Lachman, president of the group.
"There˜s been a tremendous influx of seniors," he said.
He said the AARP members in Fort Collins represent retirees from throughout the country, including New York, Maryland, Kansas, Nebraska and Michigan. More retirees are moving into the area from California, too, Lachman said.
The AARP chapter receives several requests each year from people out-of-state looking to relocate in retirement, he said. Most of the queries come from residents east of the Mississippi River.
The weather is particularly appealing to retirees from other states because it offers all four seasons but isn˜t extremely cold, he said.
Lachman, 62, moved to Colorado three years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y. At first he settled in Colorado Springs but last year moved to Fort Collins to be closer to his granddaughter.
Along with the Fort Collins area becoming more popular with retirees, nearby Greeley also is seeing an increase in seniors, said Lyle Butler, president of the Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce.
He said the agency receives many phone calls from people in other cities looking to relocate in retirement.
"We˜ve seen folks moving back from Tucson and Phoenix who are coming back to Colorado. Sometimes they˜ have two homes," he said.
Greeley currently has a population of 69,403. Since 1990, there has been rapid growth due to job creation, he said.
Butler said there˜s also been a noticeable increase in the number of assisted-living centers that serve seniors in the Greeley area. Construction of the Sterling House was recently completed, and two other centers are about to open soon, he said.

Call it the Golden Rush.
Retirees from throughout the country are flocking to Northern Colorado to spend their later years in culturally rich college towns and locate near other family members, experts say.
Although no economic agencies here track the influx of retirees into the region, real-estate agents and other professionals say they˜ve detected a sharp increase in the number of seniors moving here in recent years.
Many retirees move here from Iowa, Michigan and other Midwestern states, said Sharianne Daily, president of The Group Inc., a real-estate firm in Fort Collins.
"It has to do with the weather and…

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