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Susan Koch and Jim Huizenga
Susan Koch and Jim Huizenga say Roanoke is a friendly community.
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Don and Ann Fink
Don and Ann Fink have always been fond of Roanoke and are happy they became residents after retirement.
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Roanoke retirees find plenty to see and do.
Outdoors, Roanoke retirees find plenty to see and do.
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Susan Koch and Jim Huizenga
Susan Koch and Jim Huizenga say Roanoke is a friendly community.
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Choosing a Retirement Community
The process of choosing a retirement community starts with online homework.
For retirees, the Roanoke Valley has it all: affordable cost of living, recreation, a mild climate, top-notch healthcare and a strong sense of community.
Susan Koch & Jim Huizenga: Roanoke is Just the Right Size
The Shenandoah Valley had visual appeal, but for Susan Koch and her husband Jim Huizenga, Roanoke had the whole package.
Having lived in Roanoke during some pre-retirement years, Susan Koch and Jim Huizenga knew the area offered ample amenities ideal for any age. So when it was time to retire, the couple wanted to at least be close to the city.
“I had made so many trips between Northern Virginia and Roanoke” during the working years, Huizenga says, and first thought the Shenandoah Valley would become home. “But that fantasy didn’t last too long because there were things in the city we wanted to have nearby.”
“I didn’t want to be too far from the grocery store and a swimming pool,” Koch adds. “Roanoke is not too big, not too small. It’s big enough to be interesting, and small enough to be friendly.”
The two made their move in 2004, quickly becoming involved in numerous activities and organizations, and meeting new friends. Both joined the Greater Raleigh Court Civic League, an organization that preserves the character of a community Koch and Huizenga have grown to love.
“Part of what we were looking for when we moved was a mixed community with people of all ages,” Koch says, “and that’s why we like Raleigh Court. It also has sidewalks, so there’s a lot of interaction among neighbors, and we have block parties.”
“It has a nice feel to it, “ Huizenga adds. “We were able to buy a nice house amenable for renovations at a better cost than it would be in Northern Virginia.”
They also see great things happening in Roanoke that make them even more pleased with their decision to move here.
“I feel like Roanoke is on the cusp of something good,” Koch says.
Both point to progress in the city schools, growth of downtown living options, popularity of the greenways and expansion of programs within the library system. Koch serves on the Roanoke Public Library Advisory Board.
Affordable Living Amid Big City Amenities
City Council member Court Rosen shares his insights on what makes Roanoke an appealing community for retirees.
The Roanoke region, says Court Rosen, a Roanoke City Council member, has all of the entertainment and recreation that big cities do, but in a town-like setting.
“I think that’s what makes us unique,” he says. “You have the opportunity to live somewhere that feels like a community, but you can still find the amenities you would find in big cities,” such as concerts, world-class theater and great restaurants.
That’s perfect for retirees who seek an affordable cost of living along with the prospect of finding plenty of ways to stay active. Here, Rosen breaks down a list of reasons seniors should consider Roanoke a retirement haven.
This region boasts greenways, hiking trails and numerous places for people to enjoy water-based activities, Rosen says. But that just scratches the surface.
“Our parks and recreation departments offers excursions, recreational trips, organized hikes,” and much more, he adds. “A bonus: the programs are either free or a really low cost.”
Education & Volunteerism
Libraries offer programs for seniors, including computer literacy courses, volunteer opportunities and book clubs. In addition to the library, Rosen explains, Roanoke has an excellent adult learning atmosphere at Hollins
University, Roanoke College, Ferrum College and the Roanoke Higher Education Center.
“Not every city has easy access to so many learning opportunities,” he says.
Other volunteering options are available through the Local Office on Aging, Council of Community Services, local school systems and more.
For the retiree who travels often to visit family and friends or for fun getaways, Roanoke is located near interstates that lead to beaches and areas of Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia and northern states.
Thanks to Amtrak coming to Roanoke, Rosen says folks who prefer to avoid interstates will have an affordable mode of transportation to various locations. In addition, Roanoke’s airport offers flights that – within a connection or two – can transport people almost anywhere in the United States.
Roanoke’s moderate climate is ideal for seniors who are interested in staying away from the cold winters and the sweltering hot summers, Rosen says.
“We get our snow, but the winters are mild and the summer temperatures are bearable,” he adds.
Don & Ann Fink: “We Love It Here”
For Don and Ann Fink, Roanoke was the only place they would consider for retirement.
They have nothing but positive things to say about Roanoke. From the quality of healthcare to the big-city amenities, the Finks think Roanoke can’t be beat.
“We love our life here,” says Ann. “And we’re so thankful for God’s many blessings.”
The Finks moved to Roanoke after Don retired as a civil engineer from U.S. Steel. After living in several big cities, such as Chicago and Pittsburgh, they were anxious to get back to their roots. Growing up, both considered Roanoke a “big city,” but it turned out to be just the size they needed in retirement.
“From the time I was a kid, I thought Roanoke was #1,” Don says. “Living in Wythe County, it was beyond our imagination.”
Now, they laud not only the surrounding beauty of the mountains, but also the top-notch medical care, number of churches, the greenways and parks, variety of restaurants and entertainment venues.
“I like that this area brings in entertainment that you don’t have to go to New York for,” Don says.
Not big travelers – especially since most of their family lives in the vicinity – the couple is content with local activities. Ann takes a watercolor painting class at Virginia Western Community College. Members of First Baptist Church, the two enjoy volunteering as well, filling shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child or stuffing stockings for the Salvation Army. Ann also volunteers for Baptist Friendship House, where she helps lead Bible studies for women.
Family, they say, always comes first. Both passionate about cooking thanks to influences bestowed on them by parents and grandparents, they invite family members over for dinner every week.
The Finks are also big fans of the infamous Roanoke Star. People they met all over the country who had been to Roanoke always recalled seeing the star.
“When you’re coming in to town on 581, it’s good to see the star shining,” Ann says. “You know you’re home.”
Choosing A Retirement Community
The Roanoke Valley has a smorgasbord of options when it comes to retirement communities. But how do you find the right one for you? A local community’s CEO offers his advice.
Whether you’re a retiree planning a move to Roanoke or a retired native, chances are you have given some thought to where you would like to live. Do you want to stay in your current home? Is a retirement community the best fit?
If you’re in search of a new place to call home post-retirement, Russ Barksdale, CEO of Friendship Retirement Community, says the process can prove challenging due to the various options available.
“Most seniors that we meet are looking for a community that can easily adjust its services to meet their physical and health needs as their needs and/or interests change with age,” Barksdale says.
When researching communities – which Barksdale suggests initially doing online – a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is a great option for seniors who seek housing, services and nursing care all in one location. Plus, CCRCs often also include security, transportation services and structured activities, Barksdale adds. For those further into retirement, assisted living facilities or stand-alone retirement housing may be enough.
Seniors also should consider the cost of living factor to avoid outliving retirement savings. Some communities offer the ability to customize a plan based on an individual’s needs and wants.
“There are tremendous cost savings for the resident using this customized approach,” Barksdale says. “Seniors shouldn’t have to pay for services they don’t want or need, nor should they have to invest their life savings to move in.”
Barksdale also advises seniors to determine what services are included at no extra cost, and to find a community whose annual rate adjustments are fixed or reflect Social Security payments.
Start your search for a retirement community at Retire-VA.com, the comprehensive website for The Roanoker’s annual retirement guide.
Do’s and Don’ts of Retirement Saving
Setting money aside – especially for retirement – can be difficult. Life’s ups and downs impact decisions on how and when to save. Financial advisor Stewart Barnes of Barnes & Associates contributes five things to remember about saving for the latter years.
1. Do Contribute. “And start as soon as you can. It’s never too late to start saving, even if you’re in your 50s or 60s.”
2. Do Contribute Regularly. “Contribute automatically – anything that gets out of your paycheck without you seeing it first. Take advantage of employer plans and get the full match (of funds). Try to contribute at least 15% of your income.”
3. Don’t Retire While in Debt. “Always watch your debt and keep it under control. Debt can easily creep in and take over,” making it difficult to have savings.
4. Don’t Stop Contributing. “A lot of people stop for various reasons. Sometimes it’s hard, but you should keep contributing, even if it’s a small amount.”
5. Do Consider Needs and Wants. “Make sure your (retirement) needs are covered with fixed sources of income; it will help you feel more secure. Wants can be covered through variable investments (i.e. stocks, bonds).”
The Cost of Living Factor
A move to Roanoke for retirement may prove economical for many retirees. Folks coming from the Northeast or metropolitan areas of Virginia will find cost of living much more affordable and a drop in net taxes, Barnes says.
While cost of living does not have to be a main concern when deciding how much money is needed for retirement, it can help comfort those leaving the working world to know such necessities are available for a reasonable price.