Campus: CSU Northridge -- September 05, 2001

"Retire in Style," CSUN Professor's New Book Lists 50 Affordable Places Across America

They are living longer, leading more active lives and have more money than their parents did. So when it comes to retirement, America's approximately 76 million Baby Boomers are not looking to spend their final years sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch somewhere.

"The information I've gleaned indicates that they are looking for a more affluent community that is rich in amenities - the arts, culture and education," said Warren R. Bland, a professor of geography at Cal State Northridge. "Not all Baby Boomer retirees want to spend all their days on the golf course. They led rich, full lives before they retired and they intend to continue doing so after."

Bland's new book, "Retire in Style: 50 Affordable Places Across America," (published by Next Decade, Inc.) takes a serious look at communities that fit the demands of Baby Boomer retirees.

Bland said that for years he's scanned books aimed at retirees, and found them lacking.

"They would tout a place with anecdotes from people who lived in the community for only a short time, not after the luster had faded away," Bland said. "They didn't provide a really honest assessment of a retirement community. I kept saying I could do better, and finally I decided I would."

Bland used his more than 20 years of experience as a regional and economic geographer to establish 12 criteria by which to judge an area - landscape, climate, quality of life, cost of living, transportation, retail services, health care, community services, cultural activities, recreational activities, work/volunteer activities and crime.

He then visited more than 70 communities across the country to see how they actually met the criteria and talked to people about what it was really like to live there.

Once, while in Fayetteville, Ark., Bland and his wife were driving down a residential street when an elderly couple sitting on their front porch gave them a friendly wave. Bland decided to stop and talk to them about what it was like to live in the town. During the course of the conversation the couple mentioned chicken dander.

"It turns out that millions of broiler chickens are raised near the town and chicken dander is the air, which could cause problems for some people with allergies" Bland said. "That's something you don't really learn until you visit a place and talk to people who've lived there a long time."

Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas, made it into Bland's book, with a warning about the chicken dander.

Other communities listed in the book include Burlington, Vt.; Ithaca, N.Y.; Madison, Wis., Chapel Hill, N.C., Naples, Fla., Savannah, Ga.; Tucson, Ariz.; Boulder City, Nev.; San Luis Obispo, Calif., Palm Springs, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Bellingham, Wash.

Many of the communities that made the cut are college towns.

"They are vibrant communities that have a lot to offer without being too big," Bland said. "They have a strong traditional core and for the most part are friendly and safe."

Bland earned a B.A. at Wilfried Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, and a master's and Ph.D. at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is currently a full professor in CSUN's Geography Department. Bland specializes in the regional and economic geography of the United States and Canada.

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