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IC a center for seniors

BY MARY HARRINGTON | MAY 05, 2009 7:30 AM

Iowa City is known to pull writers and doctors, athletes and artists to the community. Now, the little Midwestern city is making its name nationally as a senior-citizen hub, seducing retirees with activities for the aging.

Iowa City was recently named one of the 20 best retirement communities in the country by U.S. News & World Report. With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and a thriving social scene, the city was recommended to aging individuals as the Iowa town to settle in.

“You’ll find that a lot of university communities are known as great retirement communities for seniors,” said Laurie Haman, a spokeswoman for the Iowa City-Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s somewhat inspiring for seniors to get to be around all the activity that comes with that younger demographic.”

Other Midwestern college towns to make the rankings include Madison, Wis., Lincoln, Neb., and Naperville, Ill. While some local seniors griped about long restaurant lines and fewer downtown parking spaces during university sessions, many others said the school community is one ingredient spicing up their lives.

“I adore the students here,” said 76-year-old Betty McNean. “They keep me young with their energy and liveliness.”

McNean lived in Iowa City for several years in the 1970s before moving to a family farm in Tama County. But after retiring from her real-estate job in the mid-1990s, she decided to return to the university town to spend her post career-woman days.

Since retiring from her formal job, she has stayed busy taking care of her two grandchildren. But as they reach a more mature age, she is finally taking advantage of the city’s senior-targeted opportunities, planning now to enroll in yoga, computer, and painting classes at the Senior Center, 28 S. Linn St., where almost 1,200 locals are paying members, said program specialist Michelle Buhman.

“It’s just like a little oasis in this town,” McNean said, her eyes beaming as she spoke about her home. “People always say they don’t want to stay here, that they just have to get out of Iowa. But then they always end up coming back, just as I did.”

Iowa City resident Gary Lumpa has lived here his whole life. He could have fled the state after retiring three years ago, but he stuck around in a community that offers everything he needs, he said.

“I don’t know if I’d ever live anywhere else,” the 62-year-old said. “With the local cultural events, the sports scene, and the education system here, this city just has so much to offer.”

Aside from observing local sporting events, Lumpa is about to start working on desktop iMacs in a senior computer class.

Such cultural activities boosted Iowa City’s retirement rankings when U.S. News ranked the top cities, along with recreation opportunities and health care.

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded Iowa City with a Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging Commitment Award, just one of three given out that year. The community was given the title for having a welcoming walking environment and laying the groundwork for more active lifestyles for the older population, according to a release from the EPA.

Healthy aging is also the focus in Johnson County’s six hospitals, 13 clinics, and 24 elderly care facilities. And recreation is available in a variety of clubs and classes, ranging from the classic to the quirky.

Popular senior citizen clubs include kayaking, billiards, over-50 dating, tango dancing, and tai chi. Some local seniors dance in the UI’s homecoming parade in a daring drill team, while others operate one of the nations only senior television stations of its kind.

“With the UI in close proximity, these seniors get the chance to go back and experience things offered to them in their youth that they maybe didn’t take advantage of before,” Haman said. “With their stories and experience, these people are great to partner with a thriving younger generation.”


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