GJ in Top 10 retirement spots

Known to the first-grade students in Jill Mazza’s class as “Miss Mary,” foster grandparent Mary Melcher works with 6-year-old Carly Bjorklund on her math at Tope Elementary School Tuesday.



The following cities made the American Association of Retired Persons list of 10 Great Sunny Places to Retire for 2012:

•  Asheville, N.C.

•  Bend, Ore.

•  Fort Worth, Texas

•  Grand Junction, Colo.

•  Las Cruces, N.M.

•  St. George, Utah

•  San Diego

•  San Luis Obispo, Calif.

•  Santa Fe, N.M.

•  Sarasota, Fla.

The seventh-sunniest city in the United States is one of the best places to retire as well, according to the American Association of Retired Persons.

AARP Magazine released a list in its January issue of 10 Great Sunny Places to Retire. Grand Junction is included in the list, which does not rank the cities.

To make the list, cities had to record at least 250 sunny or partially cloudy days a year and needed something besides weather to make the city attractive, such as cultural or natural attractions.

Don Opp, a volunteer at the Senior Recreation Center in downtown Grand Junction, said he “can’t think of a better place” to retire than Grand Junction. After 25 years as an electrical engineer in the San Francisco area, Opp moved with his wife to her hometown of Grand Junction to retire in 1995.

“I’m originally from South Dakota. The winters are tough back there, and winters here are great,” Opp said.

He said activities like those at the 600-member Senior Recreation Center make retirement here entertaining. Seventy-two seniors were playing bingo at the center Tuesday afternoon, and pool, card games, art and computer classes, a library and exercise equipment are among the center’s other offerings. Membership at the center is $5 a year.

“It’s a great place for seniors because it’s inexpensive and a great place to meet people,” Opp said.
Senior-living centers can offer seniors a place to meet, but the Grand Valley also has a lot of options for people who want to stay in their homes, according to Home Care of the Grand Valley Marketing Director Rebecca Leonard. Home Care is one of a number of agencies in the area that offer nursing services as well as personal-care services such as cooking and cleaning. Leonard said many of Home Care’s clients are retired.

“Our health care in this community is excellent. We have an array of home-health-care agencies. That’s probably why AARP has them listed” as one of the best sunny places to retire, Leonard said.

The magazine promotes Grand Junction’s access to care as well as opportunities to recreate on Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa and tour wineries.

If those features don’t tempt retirees to relocate, Barb Bowman, division manager of the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau, hopes the latest AARP accolade will at least attract seniors to visit the region.
“We probably see 125 (tourist) motor coaches a year, and probably 80 percent (of passengers) are seniors. It’s great this is happening this time of year because a lot of people are making travel decisions now for the next six months,” Bowman said.

Bowman said she hopes AARP Magazine readers will see the article and be more encouraged to take a trip that includes a pass through Grand Junction. Each night that a motor coach tour stays in town, the tourists aboard pump $6,000 into the local economy, she said.

A good economy, low crime, healthy living and recreational opportunities are requirements for cities to make any of AARP’s lists of best places to retire, which also include best small places to retire and best places abroad to retire.

Economic data that was used to rank Grand Junction in the top 10 this year comes from 2009, when housing prices, employment and the area’s median income were just beginning to slide. The magazine also reported crime is above average in Grand Junction.


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