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Wenatchee: The Next Retirement Paradise?

July 25, 2011

WENATCHEE, Wash. - "It's easy to confuse Wenatchee with the Garden of Eden." That's the first line in a glowing new review of this central Washington city, by AARP.

The city of some 54,000 residents is getting some unexpected national attention, with feature stories in USA Today and AARP The Magazine, as one of the top five places in the country for retirement.

And if people make the move, Wenatchee says it's ready for them. When economic times were better, a new event center and hospital expansion were completed, and AARP cites plenty of outdoor recreation in the area, too.

Allison Williams, the town's executive services director, hopes the publicity is a boost for the local economy.

"You know, like everybody else we have struggled, but we maintain this amazing community quality of life, and the availability of housing options and tremendous health care that continue to make Wenatchee a great place to be."

Wenatchee is also dubbed the "Apple Capital of the World," and has won national honors for volunteer participation in annual "Make a Difference Day" events. Williams says she and her husband moved there for the same reasons cited by AARP, a combination of city amenities and a small-town feel.

One factor that helped catapult Wenatchee into a "Top Five" spot is that Washington doesn't have an income tax, making pensions and Social Security payments go further. And the competition was tough, according to Gaby Redford, project editor at AARP The Magazine, who hired a demographer to help crunch the numbers.

"He looked at 350 cities for us, and so we had to go through all 350 and look at all the different financial data that we got, as well as some of the livability criteria. We culled through all of that and came up with our top five."

Redford says low housing prices also figured prominently in the scores.

Other cities in the top five are Winchester, Virginia; Portland, Maine; Gainesville, Georgia; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The article is online at www.aarp.org

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA