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People dine and shop in downtown Athens, Georgia on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; taylormckenziephotography.com)

After years of going into work every day, there comes a point when it’s time to kick up your feet, relax and enjoy retirement. And luckily for Athens’ residents, they’re in just the right place.

In 2017, Forbes named Athens the No. 1 best place for individuals to retire. Betsy Bean, the editor-in-chief and publisher of BoomAthens, a publication for readers 50-years-old and up, said activities like lectures at the Richard B. Russell Library, special exhibits at the Georgia Museum of Art and trips to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia keep seniors engaged in Athens..

“I think I could speak for many when I say that [in Athens] you get all these wonderful, cultural offerings that Atlanta has, but you don't have to deal with traffic,” Bean said. “So, it's really the best of both worlds.”

Arthur Horne, the former dean of the College of Education at the University of Georgia and an Athens retiree of seven years, said he recalls a friend from south Georgia raving about the offerings Athens had for retirees.

“He said, ‘Do you folks realize what you have here?’” Horne said. “There's so many things here in Athens. Anybody who can't find things to do isn't looking very hard.”

The cultural offerings for retirees are many, but according to Forbes, the economic pros for retiring in Athens are just as plentiful. In 2017, Athens’ cost of living was 8% below the U.S. average with a median home price of $161,000.

UGA’s Terry College of Business hosts an annual Georgia Economic Outlook series led by Jeffrey Humphreys, director for the Selig Center for Economic Growth. The series focuses on research conducted on the economic, demographic and social issues related to Georgia’s current and future growth. It was there that Paul Cramer, CEO of the Classic Center, said he realized the economic and cultural impact of retirees.

“[Jeffrey Humphreys] says that Georgia has attracted, on average, 16,000 retirees a year who have brought with them a net worth of $8 billion and created approximately 28,000 jobs,” Cramer said. “They are dramatically helping our local economy, but I think it's far more than that. I think when they come here, they come here from all walks of life. They bring a great deal of diversity in our community.”

As a continuously developing city, Athens has the opportunity to attract more retirees. The Classic Center is planning to expand by building an arena that drives civic, cultural and social activity, and maximizes the impact of visitors, Cramer said.

With its expansion, Cramer said the Classic Center also plans to fund a senior living residential development in downtown Athens. The expansion is scheduled to be completed by fall 2023 with the senior living residential development slated for completion before then, Cramer said.

Horne said a difficulty for retirees in Athens has been finding housing geared toward them.

“The focus on housing and living conditions here in Athens has predominantly been on students and families and not nearly as much on retirees,” Horne said. “And so any housing opportunities here [for retirees] would be great.”

In the search for a city to retire in, Bean has discovered that some retirees she’s encountered in Athens not only wanted a college town, but a liberal college town that allows them to get involved in organizations promoting social change.

“I think the retirees of today and tomorrow, they want to be around vibrant youth. They want to continue to educate themselves, and they want to stay healthy,” Cramer said. “I really believe that they will not only get involved but they will contribute their time, their talent and their treasure. And in all of those ways, they will leave this community better than they found it.”