Six months ago, fed up with the worst winter on the Oregon coast that locals could remember, Barb and I packed up the dog and cat and drove 1,310 miles Southeast. To the “great” Southwest.
We’re now in the second fastest growing county in the nation - the Census Bureau estimates about 200 new faces a day - and surrounded by a lot of white hair, expensively tinted hair and the most bald heads we’ve ever seen in one place. The three “cheek-by-jowl” unincorporated "active" retirement communities that make up our new neighborhood total about 92,000 folks - 55 and up.
While you’ll see some criticism here, please remember I’m four score plus two. So, this isn’t being written by a critic from the outside but from my own 82 years. If you haven’t experienced this “active senior living” as it’s called, you might see some surprises here.
When we came down a year ago on a scouting mission, the first thing that caught our eye was $2.28 a gallon gas. A buck or more less than the Coast. We also found real estate taxes on a $200,000 house were about $800 a year. That’s $1,600 less than we’d been paying. A good steak dinner is about $11.00. Shopping within a five mile radius includes hundreds of stores from Neiman-Marcus to Goodwill. Everything you can name! More places to eat out than you could count and a gas station or bank on every corner.
Sounds a bit like senior Nirvana, doesn’t it? Well, while all those good things are quite true, there are other details to consider, too.
For one, our $1,100 a year car insurance went to $1,900. Same car. Same driver. Zip codes are a big factor in setting rates. When you’ve lived here awhile, and driven our roads filled with seniors from everywhere, your sense of self-preservation is heightened and you understand why the increase. Oh, and our car license went from about $200 for two years to $485 for one!
Another local phenomenon is the lowly golf cart. They look the same as those at the country club. But - these have been modified to go between 35-40mph! Gas or electric. With mirrors, seatbelts and appropriate insurance added, they move! And are driven everywhere! Right out in the rest of the traffic. Four lanes or six! Like many others, we use ours as a second car. Easier to park when shopping.
Electricity in our former home was about seven-cents a kilowatt hour. Here, 13-cents and up. Nuclear generation rather than hydro. Water/sewer bills that used to be $60 or so for two months are $60-100 a month now. Also, our state’s water rights in the regional compact are junior to all other states so an extended drought could be a disaster.
Still, just in our little unincorporated “heaven” of about 30,000 oldsters, we have nine - count ‘em - nine 18-hole golf courses to keep up. Two private. Seven public. Using about 2.4 billion gallons of water per year. Residents use about 1.3 billion. So, when water isn’t as available as it is today, (a) already high residential rates will skyrocket and (b) someone is going to have to decide which - and how many - golf courses will be cut to nine holes. Or closed. Them’s fighten’ words hereabouts.
Our current special election to replace our adulterous former Congressman features an adulterous minister - endorsed by the outgoing adulterer, another who’s a twice-convicted felon and James Dobson. The other candidate claims to have loved Trump even before he was elected. Such are our ballot choices. To say we’re a “conservative” state is to confuse “conservative” with outright nuts!
Still, at least for now, we’re not unhappy with our move. Let’s just say we’re here on a “trial basis” and continue to observe life around us. Our “due diligence” continues unabated.
Over the next few months, we’ll describe more of this newfound “active retired” senior living lifestyle and the blessings/curses that go with it. It’s really a little of both. But, you might want to make that “due” in due diligence “DUE” before you take the step.