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Destination Retirement – Retiring to the Piedmont

North Carolina ranks third in the country where retirees choose to live. The state offers something for everyone. The mountains in the west and the ocean in the east are separated by the Piedmont area that has its own unique character. Living in the Piedmont allows trips to the mountains or to the ocean with relative ease while living in the beauty of the state’s interior landscape.

Among the top 10 places listed in the North Carolina Retirement Guide are Chapel Hill, Pinehurst, Pittsboro and Winston-Salem. Among the criteria for being a retirement destination are lifestyle preferences, finances, health care facilities, housing costs, taxes, activities and residential living options.

Chapel Hill is located in the rolling hills of Durham and Orange counties, primarily in Orange. It is home to the University of North Carolina. The town covers an area of slightly more than 20 square miles and has a population of 44,000. Temperature is moderate, and there are four seasons with spring and fall considered prime time for abundant floral and plant beauty.

Partly because of the university, there are numerous cultural opportunities. Tar Heel sporting events are a major attraction, not just for students. Restaurants abound with an estimated one restaurant for every 280 residents.

Collectively, Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham make up the Triangle. Each city has countless offerings for residents, including Duke and N.C. State universities, several highly-rated medical facilities, festivals and events, all within easy reach of Chapel Hill.

Roughly halfway between Chapel Hill and Pinehurst is the small town of Pittsboro, the county seat of Chatham and a desired retirement destination. The town was named for William Pitt, the younger son of Lord Chatham for whom the county was named. Specialty shops and restaurants circle the historic downtown courthouse.

The unique character, rural nature, vibrant arts community and the people of Chatham County,” says Cindy Poindexter, executive director of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, “attract folks of all ages. It is a wonderful all-around place to call home.”

“Our economic impact of visitor-related spending has increased each year for the last several years,” adds Neha Shah, director of travel and tourism for the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We are always pleased to see that guests find their experiences here so fulfilling that it drives them to relocate to our area.” With shopping and other major attractions nearby as well as the communities of Fearrington Village and Galloway Ridge, Pittsboro was selected in 2013 to be a N.C. Certified Retirement Community by the N.C. Department of Commerce. This certification was a community effort in which Galloway Ridge’s Pat Richardson, director of community relations, was happy to play a role.

“When we applied for the certified retirement destination, we were only the fifth city to receive the award,” says Richardson. “We decided to go about it in a different way, not to just look at town funding it but instead to find community partners and businesses. It was more challenging but an innovative way to get their buy-in, so they are a voice and advocate for the program.”

That community spirit already resides in Pittsboro, but is something its newest residents seem to appreciate and embrace.

“Folks here are interested in the community. They really care about their neighbors. It is a very organic community that promotes farm to table, sustainability, recycling and green. There is a lot that happens here. This is a perfect place to come in and get involved. It’s much different than a large city. With a population of about 4,000 people, you’ll probably see the mayor at the grocery store,” says Richardson.

Galloway Ridge, a continuing care retirement community, provides a health care aspect to its residents. Independent living options include villas that have up to 3,000 square feet of living space to spread out in or apartments for those ready to downsize ranging from 880 to 1,500 square feet. Galloway Ridge’s campus spans 50 acres with an onsite wellness center and indoor pool and access to offsite activities like croquet, tennis, bocce and an outdoor pool at nearby Fearrington Village.

Residents need only be 62 years old to move into Galloway Ridge, but the average age of residents is coming down with more and more baby boomers planning ahead.

“We do see our demographics changing,” says Richardson. “The average age has moved down to 68 recently. We are being toured and visited by younger folks, because they realize that moving into a retirement community does not mean that you are retired, just moving into a community with great amenities and one that allows you to secure the health care aspect on the back end. We have many residents who work from their home or consult or have a second career.”

Galloway Ridge has an onsite assisted living option, skilled nursing facility and memory care to its residents as their needs change. In addition, the community sets up onsite clinics for things such as podiatry, audiology and ophthalmology by preferred providers. Residents also enjoy maintenance-free living without homeowner association fees and benefits like housekeeping, onsite dining and an array of social gatherings, events and outings.

Sixty percent of Galloway Ridge residents move from within North Carolina, and that other 40 percent come mostly from Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, California, South Carolina and Georgia.

The Piedmont region’s central location in the state makes it ideal to access metropolitan areas and retain the small town feel.

“We have to distinguish ourselves,” says Richardson. “We are a rural city but not so rural that you don’t have access to things, and that does make us a great retirement destination.”

By Ann Robson

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