Retiring boomers shun 'snowbird' life in relocating

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CAMDEN, Maine (AP) — When Peg Davis was ready to find a retirement community to move to, she looked north — not south — for a place to spend her later years.

She forsook Florida and settled on the Maine coast.

Davis, 73, was in search of the slow pace of a small town with natural beauty, cultural opportunities and “a sense of place.”

The idea of people who uproot and move when they retire conjures up images of warm, sunny Florida or Arizona. But some of the older members of the baby boom generation — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — are looking elsewhere, and a number of towns in cooler climates from Maine to Washington have become popular retirement destinations.

Camden is frequently cited in lists of best places for retirees, a list that includes many Northwest locales.

“Yes, the Sun Belt remains popular, but many people prefer a four-season climate and enjoy the changing of seasons,” said Mary Lu Abbott, editor of Where to Retire magazine. They seek towns that are safe and have active, appealing downtowns and good hospitals nearby, and increasingly they’re looking for places with a lower cost of living and lower overall tax rate.”

Maine doesn’t have a low income tax rate and housing prices are high in Camden. But the town fits the bill in most other regards, drawing more retirees over the years, many with previous connections to the town, spending summers or vacations in the area.

Camden, population 4,850, has a picturesque harbor, its own ski mountain, the downtown has stores and restaurants that are locally owned, crime is low and incomes and education levels are high.

In 1990, 33 percent of residents were 55 and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2010, nearly half were 55 and up.

With baby boomers now reaching retirement age, they’re looking for places that are walkable with good restaurants, volunteer opportunities and perhaps college courses they might be able to take, said David Savageau, author of “Retirement Places Rated.”

For many retirees nowadays, the idea of a “golf kind of idle recreation” retirement associated with Florida isn’t appealing, he said.

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