Harlingen Is A Top Texas Retirement Community

By Eileen Mattei on April 29, 2011 at 11:03 am EST

Harlingen is not your grandmother’s retirement community. It’s much better, and a perfect match for the next generation of active, independent retirees.

The city qualified as a Texas Certified Retirement Community in 2008 after completing a stringent review of its numerous assets: medical, recreational, cultural, continuing education, security and employment. The year-round pleasant weather is a bonus.

Harlingen has long been a retirement destination for those seeking a sub-tropical home from which to start new adventures and new lives. Now, drawn by the city’s affordability, amenities and friendliness, Baby Boomer retirees are moving to Harlingen and embarking on active lifestyles in neighborhoods and over-55 communities.

When Harlingen became the first South Texas town to achieve Texas Certified Retirement Community status, that recognition validated what recent retirees had discovered for themselves.

Danny and Susan Hoehne retired from jobs in Washington, D.C., and bought a home in Harlingen one month after their first visit in 2005. “I love telling folks about the great things I’ve found in the Rio Grande Valley and Harlingen. First of all is good birding,” says Danny, who spots wild parrots in his yard. “There are great people here. With the low cost of living, you get a lot of bang for your buck.”

Welcomed to the community, Danny has become chairman of Harlingen’s Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, one of the nation’s top events. Susan couldn’t resist a nature center job.

The Hoehnes’ enthusiasm about affordable, active retirement in Harlingen is backed by statistics. Besides the fact that Texas has no state income tax, the quarterly Cost of Living index puts Harlingen at 83 percent, considerably below the national average. But Harlingen’s resources seal the deal. It is the region’s acknowledged medical hub with two hospitals, one of which has a five-star stroke center.

The city’s new VA Health Center is adding a large surgical center. Southwest Airlines flies from Harlingen’s Valley International Airport, making travel easy. Two University of Texas campuses are less than an hour away, and Texas State Technical College is located in Harlingen. The non-profit Creative Retirement Center arranges stimulating lectures and trips. Leisure activities abound, including golfing, fishing and boating. Retirees can attend concerts and performances, join clubs, volunteer for the sea turtle patrol or tutor students.

Roger Youngblood has a tough time listing only five good reasons to retire to Harlingen. He starts with the top-notch local medical facilities, Southwest Airlines’s 15 daily flights, nearby South Padre Island, the shops in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, and the affordable options of homes at Cottonwood 21, the established, gated retirement community with golf course that he manages. Harlingen is an affordable option in the perfect location for retirees, not just to visit but to live. The average price for a new, landscaped, three-bedroom home is $135,000.

The city’s 15 RV parks provide a springboard for Winter Texans who often decide they want to live the good life in Harlingen year-round. They, too, have discovered that retirement in Harlingen is just the start of the best of their lives.

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