Thursday, October 12, 2017

Stopover at the Old Hometown

I visited my old hometown. My grown-up old hometown. Hub and I lived in Lancaster County PA over 30 years, working, raising kids, making great friends, and then…

We moved.

The Jersey shore is now our home. Happily, I might add.

We had no idea we moved from what U.S. News and World Report proclaimed the #2 Best Place to Retire in 2018, based on a survey of locations in the U.S. offering a great quality of life at an affordable price.

Who knew? Not us.

There are no signs upon entering the county touting the place as a retirement mecca. No billboards broadcast the virtues of an ideal combination of city, suburbs, and pungent farmlands. Pungent meaning foul smelling, but you get used to it.

There are senior citizens all over Lancaster County, but nowadays seniors can be found everywhere. Boomers swagger into senior citizenhood every day. Seniors live longer and are healthier and more active than previous generations. We hike, bike, travel and eat out. A lot.

There are lots of reasonably priced restaurants in Lancaster.

On the other hand Lancaster’s senior population is not as ubiquitous as places in other parts of the country, for instance Florida.

Like Sarasota, which happened to be named the #1 Best Place to Retire 2018.

There is not a lot different about Lancaster from thousands of other mid-sized cities with surrounding suburbs and farmlands. Except the Plain sects – the Amish among them. Experiencing continual growth, the county boasts clogged roads and shopping centers under construction, but also a revived and flourishing downtown.

We returned to old haunts for a short stay. We met friends for dinner and drove downtown, noting art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and a variety of small businesses, few of which existed when we lived in the area. And we observed people. Lots of people walking around, quite different from years ago when rundown stores dotted the city landscape and few people strolled the streets.

We spent a couple of hours in another Lancaster County town, Lititz, voted in 2013 America’s coolest small town by Budget Travel.

The recognition was not referring to the weather.

Eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings accommodating stores and restaurants – no chains – line the main streets. We wandered from store to store, strolling aisles of clothes and local crafts, souvenirs and tchotchkes.

Hub and I have a talent for missing ‘in’ places. We moved to western Pennsylvania immediately after steel plants closed. Thousands of workers lost jobs permanently, disrupting a thriving economy and pushing the area into depressed status. We moved a couple of years later, and since leaving, the area has undergone a renaissance led by technology companies. Pittsburgh, the Western PA city closest to our home at the time, is rated in the 2018 U.S. News and World Report survey #8 Best Place to Retire.

Go figure.

New Jersey’s high property and estate taxes are two major reasons the state is NEVER on ANY retirement places to live.

But we love it. Will we stay? We don’t know…

If we relocate the state will probably figure out a way to lower property and income taxes and create incentives attracting businesses. The benefits of living on our island will outweigh the negatives and our current home will suddenly appear on lists of appealing places to retire.

But first we must move.