BANGOR, Maine — Bangor joins cities such as Daytona Beach, Fla., Pocatello, Idaho, and Greenville, S.C., as a top spot in this year’s AARP list of places to retire affordably.
Just one more list among endless lists, right? Not really. AARP, the advocate, insurance and discount provider and magazine for the over-50 set, claims a membership list of 38 million, making it the largest membership organization in the United States. If it says Bangor is a great spot to retire, you know at least that a lot of people are seeing it.
Why Bangor? The magazine cites Bangor’s low-cost attractions, mentioning Geaghan’s as a breakfast spot and the Penobscot Theatre Company as a great place to catch a show.
“The area’s abundant recreational and entertainment opportunities are also a major draw. A lively arts scene provides culture, and the mighty Penobscot River serves as the area’s natural centerpiece,” the review says.
And it quotes Peggy Leonard, public relations manager for the University of Maine System, who captures one of the city’s key attractions. “There’s so much hiking, biking and paddling,” she says. “When you add in what’s nearby — including Baxter State Park and Acadia — it’s a nature lover’s paradise.”
Tanya Emery, Bangor’s interim director of community and economic development, called Bangor’s placement on the list an “endorsement of the quality of life here in Bangor.”
“Efforts to create jobs that pay a livable wage, while offering benefits and opportunities for advancement, are a key focus for the city’s economic development team, as well as surrounding communities and regional groups like [Eastern Maine Development Corp.] and Mobilize Maine,” she said.
Some Bangor officials have stressed the need to attract young people to Bangor as Maine’s population is among the “oldest” in the country. City Councilor Ben Sprague has raised concerns in the past about Bangor not keeping enough young people after school.
Both Sprague and Emery said that AARP’s recognition of the city as a quality haven for retirees shouldn’t hurt its push to attract younger generations. The two interests aren’t mutually exclusive, Sprague said.
“What AARP is recognizing is that this is a great place for people to live, both young and old alike,” he said. “Many of the things AARP referenced like hiking trails and a lively art scene are exactly what younger people want as well. What we really need to focus on is bringing more good-paying, career-oriented jobs to the area to match our excellent lifestyle.”
“Yes, we want to strategically attract more young people to stay or move to the area,” Emery said. “However, the things that attract young people are not substantially different than the things that retirees look for – a safe, affordable environment with good recreational and cultural offerings.”
Money magazine noticed the same thing in 2009 when it listed Bangor as one of its 25 best cities in which to retire: “Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter and switch to golfing, fishing and hiking when the weather turns.”
Earlier this year, Bangor made the Forbes list of best places to retire because of its “reasonable cost of living, median home price of $127,000, many doctors per capita, above average air quality, good metrics for aging, low crime rate,” according to Forbes.
To make the AARP list, cities must score well on median home prices and property taxes in addition to inexpensive entertainment and restaurants and other lifestyle amenities.
The top five cities are:
• Daytona, Deltona and Ormond Beach, Fla.
• Pocatello, Idaho
• Bangor, Maine
• Greenville, S.C.
• Grand Rapids, Mich.
BDN report Nick McCrea contributed to this report.