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AARP: Gainesville one of nations top affordable retirement spots
Many can afford a higher quality of life
Pat Adams returns a serve Friday during a game of indoor balloon volleyball at the Smoky Springs Retirement Community on South Enota Drive. Adams retired to Gainesville from Eatonton. AARP has named Gainesville one of the top 10 most affordable places to retire in the U.S. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

As a Southern town with county charm and urban sophistication, it's no surprise Gainesville was recognized as one of the best places to retire.

Gainesville was recently named third among the 10 most affordable cities for retirees by the senior advocacy group AARP.

Stated the article in AARP Magazine: "Downtown Gainesville has the sleepy charm of a prosperous southern town, including brick sidewalks and a constantly humming square that attracts shoppers from throughout northern Georgia."

Gainesville has a lot to offer at lower costs than many traditional retirement destinations, the survey found. The AARP studied 350 cities across the country and created its list based on tax rates, housing costs and cost of living, as well as attractions, arts and culture.

"We do have a lot of the things that retiring adults want in terms of lifestyle. We have the lake, a major metropolitan area, a global airport ... and we have a superior health care system here that is unmatched," said Tim Evans, Vice President of Economic Development for the Chamber of Commerce.

"All of those things are available here, and the fact that we're an affordable place to get those things, it's been recognized and that's positive for us."

Other amenities that add to Gainesville's allure to seniors includes Lake Lanier, numerous parks, waterfalls and hiking, and with both Atlanta and the Blue Ridge Mountains a short drive away.

Doris Whalen has lived in Gainesville for 50 years. She now lives at Smoky Springs independent senior living, where she and a group of friends enjoy a friendly game of "balloon volleyball."

She said she loves the area and is proud to have raised her children here, citing the educational system and attractions for all ages.

"It has almost any activity a person could imagine," Whalen said, smacking a multicolored balloon over the volleyball net.

Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett said being recognized by AARP Magazine is "great news."

"We're excited to be recognized. They mentioned some of our restaurants and our downtown area and it is just a great place to retire," Padgett said.

The article said the best way to spend $10 in Gainesville was to buy a drink and a small plate of food at a local pub, then head over to the square for free events and concerts.

Pat Adams, a Smoky Springs resident for a year, agrees with the AARP's recommendation of downtown dining. She said she loves to have lunch on the square.

"I really love it; it's casual and I like to take friends there," Adams said.

Many retirees are able to afford a high quality of life through independent living and age-restricted communities. Several such communities have recently been developed in Hall County and homes are selling quickly.

For retirees who prefer to purchase their own home, the median cost of a house in Gainesville is $141,800, substantially below the national average.

That's why Evans said Gainesville can offer a much higher quality of life at a price people can afford.

"We all want to live in a community that's really nice, no matter what age we are, and this is a community that cherished all people and all ages," Evans said.