In this interview, Joseph M. Lubow author of "Choose A College Town for Retirement"", discusses how to choose a college town that suits your cultural, intellectual, social and financial needs, along with the reasons college towns are becoming increasingly popular retirement spots.

Why do you think many retirees would be interested in spending their retirement in a college town? Is this a growing trend? If so, why?

Before I answer this question, I would like to give your readers an idea of what I mean by a college town. There is much more to this than just having a college in a town.

As I wrote in the Introduction to Choose a College Town, a town had to meet these standards:

* The town had to be a distinct community.

* There had to be at least one college or university that could be seen as a major focus of community life.

* There had to be a hospital, preferably a medical center serving a region.

* There had to be a cultural center, which could be the college itself.

* There had to be parks or open space and recreational areas.

* There had to be a senior center or programs for seniors.

* -At least one college in the town had to offer educational opportunities to  adults, preferably to seniors in particular.

* A government, chamber of commerce, college, church or other organization had to hold events that brought the community out of their homes to interact together. This could be a street fair, concerts in the park, historical celebrations or any other form of recreation.

* There needed to be a cultural life. It could take the form of art or historical museums, music performances, theatre arts, or dance, and the groups or performances should have a student/faculty or community component.

* The town's location should be beautiful, the streets pleasant to walk, and the people friendly.

So you can see that I was looking for a place that was worth living in. I used, generally, a population size of 100,000 or less, though there are three exceptions to that in the book.

And an important condition is that I could live there--I'm a bit fussy about my quality of life. So I had to visit every town in the book to be able to give that guarantee.

Even if I heard about places that others thought were great, I had to see them for myself. Unfortunately I couldn't go everywhere. The book has over 60 towns that I did visit, however.

Now, for your question: In general, today's retirees are quite different from their parents' and grandparents' generations financially, educationally, and physically.

Those retiring today were born in the mid-1930s or later, so few of us have any conscious memories of the Great Depression; in fact, we really know only the incredible economic growth of this country.

Many of us have been saving for retirement--through IRAs, pension plans, 401K plans. More and more people have investments and homes that are paid for. This gives us a greater flexibility to move to new places, travel, or live in two or more places during the year.

Each year, more and more college-educated people are retiring. Because of the GI Bill, the economic growth and the mass higher-education movement of the sixties, there are more professional people--from teachers and social workers to brokers, lawyers and doctors. With this increased level of education comes a demand for more intellectual and cultural events, bookstores, and other entertainment.

Additionally, many people want to continue to learn about the world.

Finally, we are a more health-conscious society, though we have a long way to go overall. From fitness center and walking or bicycle path in town to the ski slope and the beach, more people are seeking exercise and activities that take them outdoors.

More and more retirees walk, cycle,camp, hike, canoe, swim, play tennis and golf, and participate in countless outdoor activities.

College towns, I have found, often offer the best conditions to meet these three areas of need. And many other people are realizing this, too. We are seeing migratory trends to college towns, though they do not compare to the original Sunbelt retirement migration.

How can living in a college town make a person's retirement more cultural, educational and exciting?

Colleges--especially public institutions--include as part of their mission a commitment of service to their communities.

These commitments take many forms, from open library stacks and community borrowing privileges to public art and historical museums and events centers, to special programs for children, continuing adult and professional education, educational research for industry and agriculture, and--especially these days--organized educational activities for retirees.

It used to be that you had to go to the major population centers to see Broadway musicals and dramas, or symphony orchestras, or the opera and ballet. The great art museums were in New York or Chicago or Boston. Today, the local college will sponsor performances by the national touring companies and orchestras. Jazz, blues and rock artists perform in college towns because, between the college students and the local residents, they have followings at these venues.

Colleges have become the recipients of important art, book, and artifact collections, which they then make available for public use or viewing. States often use their flagship   university to house, catalog and display governmental archives.

In town, because of the college, residents, students and faculty create demand for more bookstores and coffeehouses where discussions can be joined on topics of interest. Here in Santa Cruz, there are as many as five poets or book authors speaking on or reading from their published works at the two major independent bookshops each week. Poetry slams, local theatre, music of all kinds, special events--I always have something that I can do around town.

How can a retired person who opts to live in a college town make the most of their living situation? What are ten things they can do to get the most out of living in a college town?

Well, I'm sure there are ten things to do, but let's see what I can come up with on the spot here.

* Get out of your house or apartment and get to know your town. Walk the streets of downtown, stroll around the campus of the college, drive around the area to find the parks, beaches, rivers, lakes, movie theaters, event centers, libraries, and other amenities of the town and the college.

* Check the local newspapers for activities that you are interested in.Depending upon the size of the college, the students put out a daily or weekly paper. In the community, besides the local daily newspaper, there will probably be a community weekly paper that lists what is happening around town.

Also check the Web Sites of the college and of the town, plus local theaters and concert venues. You'll find a listing of town and college Web Sites in Choose a College Town.

* Call the college to get the adult-education program catalog and to find out if there are special programs for seniors.

There are presently over 200 towns with Institutes for Learning in Retirement, based on a model promoted by Elderhostel®. My book lists those available in the towns I visited.

These are programs administered at the college (sometimes at the local community college instead of the four-year institution) but run by the institute members. Courses are designed by the membership; the classes are often taught by professors at the school or local community, business and academic leaders, and sometimes by the membership themselves.

* Use the college library and have lunch on campus. Choose a College Town has information about library privileges for each college in the towns I covered.

* Audit courses as allowed by the college. They are usually free to people considered senior citizens (age varies by school) and offered on a space-available basis.

* Learn the local issues and get involved. Those issues often deal with town-college relationships.

* Many colleges have lecture series or discussion groups open to all. Find what interests you and attend. Most are free and held during the day on the campus. In Santa Cruz, a professor for years held regular talks for and with students, faculty and local residents at a coffeehouse.

* If you have your own expertise, say as a writer or editor or in math or computers, volunteer or advertise to tutor college students. Get to know the courses and speak to the professors. You never know where such contacts can lead.

* Because issues play an important role in the intellectual life of a campus, there are often organizations in town that are involved with the campus or the students to mitigate those issues.

* Become a docent at the college's art or history museum.

There you go, ten ways. Well, I'll be.

What opportunities do college towns have that many retirees are not aware of?

I think the previous question's answers go a long way to answer this one. I would add that many towns have programs of their own for retirees, sometimes through the local community center or senior center, but sometimes through the city's or county's parks and recreation departments. I would look there for ideas.

What mistakes do some retirees make when they move to a college town--and how can these mistakes be avoided?

Moving to a new community requires many adjustments for the newcomers.

There are the obvious changes: where the stores are and where you can park--things like that. State and local governmental bureaucracies are different. Learning the local laws takes time.

But the real adjustment is in finding, joining and continuing relationships with a group of friends. That really is what makes you feel at home. Certainly, if you are of a mind, the local church, synagogue, mosque,temple, etc., is a good place to find your new friends.

Senior centers and country clubs are others, as are the local college and community college programs for adults or seniors.

Volunteering locally will expose the newcomers to parts of the community that might not otherwise be apparent.

Regardless of where you go to find your community, the most important mistake newcomers will make is not listening to and adjusting accordingly to their new friends' customs, thoughts, attitudes, and manners.

Sometimes people--especially urbanites--come into a new situation and act as if nothing has changed. That makes it more difficult to connect.

Remembering that you are a stranger will help you attain new friendships. And most of all, have patience, because everything, especially friendships, takes time to develop.

Wouldn't senior citizens be ignored, put aside and left out in a college town full of young people? How can they become a real part of the college community?

That is certainly the impression many people have of college towns. But, having lived in a couple of college towns myself, I believe that to be false; the same can be said of the communities I visited and recommend in Choose a College Town.

Though it is true that many stores, landlords and restaurants cater to college students, the town has its regular community, the one that stays around all year long. They, too, are catered to.

The town's population includes the faculty and staff of the college and local residents who are students as well, so there is an overlap between the college and local communities. So we need to reassess our impressions against the realities of college town life.

The best way to become part of the college community is to take courses and sit in on lectures and discussion groups. Audit regular courses with the permission of the administration or the professor.

Adult education courses at the college sometimes give adults other access to the college's facilities, from libraries to discounted events.

What type of educational opportunities are available to retirees today, and how can they take advantage of them? What if they haven't attended school since their high school graduation 40 years ago?

I want to stress here that it doesn't matter when you graduated from high school--or college for that matter. If you want to earn a degree, from bachelors to doctorate, you can go through the regular procedures for the college and compete for a seat.

Especially in public colleges and universities. Just as the other students applying for college, you have to meet the requirements for admission. You have to measure for yourself if that is what you want to do. Older people get their degrees regularly in this country--sometimes you see it reported on the TV news.

What ten tips would you give anyone who is considering a move to a college town? What factors should they consider when they choose the town?

How can they make the move and adjustment a successful one?

Oh, so you want to test me again. Well, here we go again:

* Ask yourself the important questions: what will we be giving up by moving away and what will we gain by going elsewhere?

Remember to include where your children are, the climate where you live now, your present cost of living, the immediate loss of nearby friends or family against future gains of new friends, how far away from a big city you feel comfortable living, the kind of landscape that is important to you (I learned that I need an ocean nearby, and I prefer forests over deserts)--and other tangibles and intangibles that occur to you.

There are other questions of what you think you are looking for elsewhere; you should keep them in mind as you continue to look for a new place to live, but stay open to the possibility of places with unexpected advantages. Write everything down so that you can refer back to your notes after all is said and you're ready to make a decision.

* Read Choose a College Town for Retirement. That may sound self-serving, but it is the only book currently in print specifically on college towns. I don't rate the towns--I give you a representative sample of places covering all types of budgets, environments, population sizes, and climates. So it is a good place to start, even if you then read Places-Rated Almanac, other books in the Choose Retirement series, or other books on places to live.

* Once you have some idea of what you are looking for in a town, check the Web Sites or write to the chambers of commerce or convention bureaus for a relocation packet (Choose a College Town lists the information for my towns).

* Visit the town while the college is in session and, if you can, during the summer as well. One way to do this is to go on an Elderhostel® program (Web address Elderhostels supply you with room and board and something to do for part of the day; the rest of the time you can talk to real estate agents, chamber folks, college administrators, and get to walk and drive around the town and out to the surrounding communities. Sample life there as best you can. Of course, you could just go there on your own, but I like the idea of having something to do.

* Talk to new residents about life here. The chambers, convention bureaus and real estate associations often have recent residents for people to talk to.

* Contact the college's continuing education program or the local institute for learning in retirement. See what the school can offer you.

* Work the numbers. Figure out what you can afford and what it will cost to live in the town. Figure out how much the move will cost, and then add at least 20 percent to that figure for safety. Do you have the money to live elsewhere?

* Talk it out. You have to come to an agreement with your spouse or partner about moving. Keep those lines of communication open by staying flexible in your positions and listening to what the other person fears, wants, needs, and can't stand.

* Talk to those you trust the most, a counselor or a priest or a friend or a doctor or your kids or parents. Listen to what they have to say and let them help you think it out. But always remember that there will probably be a bias against your leaving, so keep that thought as part of your analysis.

* Some people move to a new town while keeping their old places back home. This gives them greater flexibility to move back if they are unsure, so they feel more secure about going to check out a new place. The problem is that by not making the break, they will have more difficulty in focusing in on their new hometown.

Ten again. How about that!

In your opinion, what are the five best college towns in the United States?

Only five? Newsweek asked me that, too, for the article called "College Towns" in their special edition on getting into college. I hesitated then, and again now, because I did not rate these places on any formal basis. As I said, this is a representative group that meet the criteria I established. But I do have my favorites, and I am willing to share them with you.

* Santa Cruz, California--this is my second time around in Santa Cruz. I lived here about twenty years ago for six years on and off the campus. And I am specifically talking about the city and not the county, where the real problems of growth and traffic exist.

The city is a lively place with coffeehouses, great bookstores, film, theatre, and music venues. The University of California at Santa Cruz has significantly affected the

lifestyle of the community culturally, socially, politically, environmentally--all sorts of ways. But living here has become expensive, and that might keep people from moving here.

* Burlington, Vermont--Cold weather? Snow? Am I crazy? No. Like Santa Cruz, Burlington offers one of the finest qualities of life for everyone. I lived there for six years in the 1990s, and I got to know the community well.

The University of Vermont and the other colleges in the area bring many cultural events to town--as well as to their campuses. If you can't take the cold and can afford it, go south from November 1 to April 30th and live in Burlington for the spring, summer and fall.

* Bellingham, Washington--I think if I hadn't seen Santa Cruz, I might have stumbled upon this wonderful town on the coast of Puget Sound and lived quite happily. About halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, it has views of the San Juan Islands to the west and, on a clear day, Mount Baker to the east. Western Washington University is surrounded by trees, has a marvelous collection of outdoor sculptures and brings many events to town.

* Boulder, Colorado--I fell in love with Boulder when I first saw it in 1971, and I still find it to be a great place, although it is much more populated now. At the foothills of the Rockies outside Denver, Boulder has a great campus of the University of Colorado and a casual lifestyle. If you like the mountains, there is no better place to be.

* Lawrence, Kansas--An oasis in the plains. The University of Kansas sits atop a hill called Mt. Oread near downtown. The city is a bastion of progressive thought in a very conservative state. There is a great art community in and around town.

Additionally, I also like: San Marcos, Texas, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Athens, Georgia, the Five-College Region of Amherst, Northampton, and South Hadley , and Charlottesville, Virginia.

In your opinion, what is the most beautiful college town in the United States?

The magnificent thing about the United States is its diversity of environments it offers us for living. We have oceans, lakes, forests, rivers, valleys, hills, mountains, deserts, plains, big towns, small towns, medium-sized towns, cold climates, hot climates, two seasons, four seasons, even five seasons, if you include mud. And for every situation, the US has plenty of people with particular tastes and needs.

Therefore, it would be difficult to choose any one town over the other.

Obviously, on a personal level, I love Santa Cruz and Burlington--one has an ocean and redwoods and the other has a lake and maples.

Other appealing towns include Williamstown, Massachusetts, Oxford, Mississippi, San Luis Obispo, California, Fort Collins, Colorado, Morgantown, West Virginia, just to name a few--each offers a different feel, environment, town size, campus size, and climate.

Can a person with health problems enjoy living in a college town, and what type of person do you believe would most enjoy a retirement in a college town?

One of the great benefits of living in college towns is that many of those towns have become regional hospital centers. Sometimes, there are medical schools at the college as well. VA medical centers often are close by. So yes, there is quality medical care available throughout the country. Choose a College Town has a section on medical care for each town.

Also available in many college towns are alternative medical treatment personnel as well as health foods stores. So we can actually get as full a range in some towns as we can get in major cities.

As for your specific health problems in relationship to your move, talk with your primary care person.

Research the important questions: if you have trouble walking up steps or hills, for instance, look at places that have relatively flat walking areas, like Davis, California, or Tempe, Arizona. Can you live comfortably at 7,000 feet in Flagstaff, Arizona?

What are a few of the things a person should know when they move to a college town, so they will not be disappointed?

* It takes time to become part of a community, so don't feel bad because you don't automatically have friends.

* Moving is a long-term process, from deciding how much stuff to move, discarding things you don't need, packing what you will be taking, doing the necessary shutoffs and forwarding, finding a mover and perhaps storage facilities in the new town, finding a house or apartment, moving in, unpacking, setting up utilities--lots of other things as well.

* Focus your life on your new life and home instead of wondering what is happening back in your old hometown. When going through the initial period of adjusting to a new place, it is easy to long for the regular routines and familiar surroundings of your past home. Be here now, as a guru once said.

What is the most economical college town in the United States?

That is a tough question, because there must be 3,000 college towns and cities in the United States. And the most economical may not be the best place for someone to live. And the ACCRA cost of living index is a constantly changing group of towns and cities, often not including the very college towns in which we would be interested.

The rule of thumb is that it is more expensive to live in the Northeast and coastal California than anywhere else, with some exceptions. So many places in the south, southwest, and the Great Plains would be the best in economics.

Of the ones I visited and researched, I would guess--but I have no hard data--Oxford and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Statesboro, Georgia, Nacogdoches, Texas, Tempe, Arizona, Chico, California, and Ames, Iowa, would be more economical. But I am guessing here.

What college town do you think is the most exciting and open to senior citizens?

Again, I don't want to pick one. There are just too many choices and there are too many ways to approach concepts such as "open" and "exciting." The scene in Athens, Georgia, is vibrant and accessible. But a different kind of accessibility is offered in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and another in Boulder, Colorado or Princeton, New Jersey. Of course, a good place to measure one town against another is in Choose a College Town for Retirement.

To order "Choose A College Town for Retirement" click on this link.

Author Joseph Lubow can be reached via e-mail at
and by regular
mail at Globe-Pequot Press, PO Box 480, Guilford, Connecticut 06437.

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