Wisconsin has a low unemployment rate and a top-notch university system—both compelling pluses for people thinking of settling there. But for retirees, residents say, it’s the warmth and neighborliness of the communities that makes The Badger State an especially easy place to relocate to. As former professor Joanne Miller, 75, who retired to Eau Claire from the Monterey Peninsula of California, puts it, “There’s always someone who’s willing to shovel your driveway, to help you in an emergency. You can’t beat the friendly people here.”
The first thing that attracts many retirees to Eau Claire is its affordability. The cost of living is nearly 10% below the national average and the median home costs just over $127,000. But the town has plenty going on, too, thanks in part to the presence of The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. People 60 and up can audit classes at the university, and the school opens its planetarium and many of its music and speaking events to the public.
The city’s arts offerings, including an 1,100-seat theater, symphony orchestra and free summer concerts, are big draws as well, says retired professor Miller, who relocated here 20 years ago. “In the past 10 days there have been 11 or 12 shows here; the local talent is quite good and we get traveling shows,” she says. The best part: “You don’t have to make reservations days in advance, you can just pop down to a show, and they’re very affordable.” The downtown has experienced a rebirth in the past 10 years with dozens of new restaurants and shops, and you can take a roughly two-hour car trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul for more to do.
Eau Claire is a safe city that hosts two hospitals and a strong volunteering community. “I volunteer a lot at the state regional arts center, and there are so many other organizations you can help out with,” Miller says. These include opportunities at the theater, library, parks and the visitor’s bureau, says Linda John, the executive director of VISIT Eau Claire, the area’s tourism office. The city’s senior center is open to people 50 and older; “you can take language and computer classes, dance and exercise classes and go on trips,” John explains. The biggest downside of Eau Claire is its weather: The average January low is 4.7 degrees F., which is even lower than the state’s average.
Originally published by Market Watch and Catey Hill.