Archive for Tuesday, October 25, 2011

City hopes to land more retirees

Bob MacLeay gets a hug from his wife, Marge, after he landed safely in a 1942 Stearman biplane. The World War II veteran got the chance to fly in the same type of plane used to train pilots in the 1930s and '40s.  The flight, made possible through Ageless Aviation Dreams, took off from Lawrence Municipal Airport and lasted about 20 minutes.

Bob MacLeay gets a hug from his wife, Marge, after he landed safely in a 1942 Stearman biplane. The World War II veteran got the chance to fly in the same type of plane used to train pilots in the 1930s and '40s. The flight, made possible through Ageless Aviation Dreams, took off from Lawrence Municipal Airport and lasted about 20 minutes.

October 25, 2011


Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series of stories that examines the push to attract more retirees to Douglas County.

Bob MacLeay, 86, has led an adventurous life. He earned medals for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and spent decades after World War II scaling New York skyscrapers, inspecting them as a structural engineer.

MacLeay had no ties to Kansas, but every summer he and his wife would drive west to reunite with Army buddies in California.

Without fail, they would stop in Lawrence and eat at what they considered one of the finest restaurants in the country, Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse.

“We were devastated when they closed for a while,” MacLeay’s wife, Marjorie, said.

After post-retirement stints in Colorado, Massachusetts and Topeka, the MacLeays have chosen Lawrence as their last stop in a long line of residences. They have grandchildren in Topeka and were sold on Lawrence when they saw Meadowlark Estates, a new retirement community that opened this month.

“It’s got enough of a big city feel without being one,” MacLeay said.

Stories like the MacLeays’ are common among people who retire to Lawrence. They come to be near family or because of fond memories attending Kansas University.

Some Lawrence leaders would like to recruit more people like the MacLeays, people they say will bring economic resources and be a positive force in the community. The Douglas County Retiree Attraction Task Force began meeting this month to decide how to help Lawrence become a retirement destination.

Lawrence already has a lot going for it, as attested by its strong showing in national lists of “best places to retire.” But experts in aging say there are improvements that can be made to help put Lawrence over the top in its quest to attract more retirees.

New Lawrence couple shares thoughts on retiring in Kansas

Bob and Marjorie McLeay moved to Lawrence in September 2011 after spending most of their lives in the northeast and Colorado. Bob, a World War II combat veteran, received a welcoming gift from Ageless Aviation Dreams, a national organization which honors veterans by giving them rides in classic propeller planes. Enlarge video

Why they chose Lawrence

Perhaps no group better exemplifies what Lawrence has to offer retirees than the New Generation Society of Lawrence.

The group has 160 members, who take in lectures and meet with local luminaries such as the Lawrence police chief and the KU athletic director.

They go behind the scenes of the city, visiting the private studio of local artist Jan Gaumnitz and touring the Martin Logan speaker factory.

“It’s amazing what goes on in Lawrence that the general population doesn’t have a clue,” said member Larry Gadt.

The group also has a philanthropic arm and has raised about $5,000 annually for the Lawrence Schools Foundation since the group’s founding 14 years ago. A recent survey conducted by the group found its members donate 938 hours of time to the community per month.

New Generation member Janet Crow said the group had become family to many of its members, especially those who don’t have any family nearby.

And Gadt, who had access to some of the finest museums in the country near his last home in Washington, D.C., is more than happy with Lawrence’s offerings.

Even as retirees are finding ways to get involved in the community, community organizations are becoming better at helping retirees.

Ten years ago, there were dozens of organizations serving senior citizens, but they were largely unaware of what each group was doing. This led to overlap in services, as well as seniors being less aware of what was out there for them.

Now businesses and organizations meet monthly through a coalition called Lawrence Area Partners in Aging.

“That connection of finding out what is going on in town is a big part of being able to help someone,” said Pattie Johnston, who coordinates senior outreach at the Lawrence Public Library.

What Lawrence can do

Victoria, British Columbia, has been called a mecca for the elderly by the Canadian media. It has some of the most pleasant weather in that country and has a higher percentage of people over age 80 than any other the metropolitan area within Canada.

Rosemary Chapin, a KU social welfare professor, recently visited Victoria and admired its response to aging.

Victoria’s government thinks about aging across all departments. For example, if the Department of Transportation is going to repaint lines on the road, it will consider which color is easiest for older people to see.

“That’s one of the big steps — that infusion of thinking about how this is going to affect older adults in every arena,” Chapin said.

Making sure middle-income seniors can afford services could also be key to making Lawrence more retirement friendly.

Right now, the poorest seniors are able to receive government assistance, and the wealthiest can afford services in their own right, said Rebecca Holmes, Project LIVELY coordinator for Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.

“There’s that middle range that are caught paying full price for everything,” said Holmes. “They have a hard time accessing the things they need.”

Boomer study

— Nine Kansas University students have been named as Boomer Futures Fellows and will receive a $1,000 scholarship for the upcoming year.

— The nine students participated in an interdisciplinary colloquium on issues facing the baby boomer generation at KU this spring. They will be encouraged to continue their work on a range of topics. The colloquium focused on housing, community, finance, real estate, law, health care, the environment, social justice, and the social, political and cultural dimensions of aging.

— The student fellows are: Julia Bernard, history; Brenna Buchanan, architecture; Avery Dame, American studies; Sharmin Kader, architecture; Ellen Rozek, psychology; John Shreve, American studies; Erin Smith, Gerontology Center; Jordan Wade, American studies; and Qiang Zhao, American studies.

One solution would be to offer services on a sliding scale based on income or allowing seniors to pay for only what they use, Holmes said.

Though the retirees interviewed for this series said they were pleased with Lawrence’s medical offerings, the city — like the rest of the country — will face a serious shortage of primary care doctors as baby boomers age.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital estimates in 2016, the city will need an additional 10 internal medicine physicians and seven family practitioners.

In the last three years, Lawrence has recruited just one internal medicine physician, said hospital CEO Gene Meyer. It’s a testament to the difficulties most cities have in recruiting physicians when doctors may have 10 to 15 job offers after completing their training.

Competing towns say that could make places with more medical facilities attractive to retirees.

“You’ve got a great hospital in Lawrence, but the health care doesn’t come close to Columbia’s,” said Don Laird, president of the Columbia, Mo., Chamber of Commerce.

Laird said Columbia’s 800 physicians and half-dozen hospitals have been a key part of the city’s efforts to recruit seniors.

Meyer said the Lawrence medical community knows the challenges and wants to meet them. And there is reason to be excited: more jobs.

“There will be a wide range, from primary care, quality health care from the hospital, and home services,” Meyer said.

Gadt, who is in his late 60s, believes the retirement he and his friends at New Generation are enjoying is a new phenomenon. His father didn’t stop working until he had a stroke at 82. His aunts and uncles also never retired. They just worked until they couldn’t work anymore.

Gadt and his wife retired young enough to enjoy a second life after work. To them, Lawrence deserves the accolades it has received in national media as a best place to retire.

“There’s a lot that would draw people here,” said his wife, Jacqueline Gadt. “Lawrence is a great town, and New Generation keeps us busy, active and learning.”


btsflk 6 years, 7 months ago

We would be those who will work until we can't anymore, then what?

It may be time to abandon Lawrence to the 1%

lunacydetector 6 years, 7 months ago

when did buffalo bob's close down? was that one of the commissioner's buildings that got the freebie taxpayer subsidized sprinkler systems and hardly anybody else downtown did ? (except for compton)

be careful on those greazy tile floors old people.

kernal 6 years, 7 months ago

Buffalo Bob's closed down for a short time due to interior rennovatons a while back.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

This is an introduction to another tax dollar spending spree based on very little. Grab your wallets.

There are plenty of new homes,condo's and such plus other homes on the market as we speak. Retirees as such do not need special living quarters until a reach a certain point of being unable to care for themselves. Most certainly have no desire.

The greater majority of this group of 160 could very well be former KU employees or simply other Lawrence people who never left town after retiring. Still doing what they were doing before retiring. Which is evidence of still being active and not ready for special living quarters. If special living quarters are necessary there are plenty of vacancies in the area.

Planning for future retirees means more wider walkways in older Lawrence and more dedicated biking facilities throughout older Lawrence that take us somewhere. The new retirees represent the active baby boomers. This plan is quite inexpensive compared to anything the Chamber or City Hall can come up with. New Lawrence already has plenty of these attributes that older east Lawrence tax dollars help finance.......

Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

East Lawrence is the best bang for the buck!

East Lawrence is growing by way of new families moving into east Lawrence and/or current families having children. Retaining and maintaining existing assets such as schools has been considered fiscally responsible for probably two hundred years…. down right frugal. New York School is paid for.

*East Lawrence is not a dying farm community.

*East Lawrence is an attractive neighborhood.

*East Lawrence new residents CHOSE the east side for a variety of reasons.

  • East,and Old west Lawrence are the choice neighborhoods for restoring old beautiful homes.

*Eastern Lawrence is about old growth trees,character of housing, easy walking or biking to most destinations like downtown, KU and our public schools.

  • Eastern Lawrence has Weavers, Browns Shoe Fit,Dillons, downtown hardware store,D&D tire shop,Liberty Hall,City Library,Senior Service Center, used goods such as the antique mall/Fun and Games, Kring's, Waxman Candle,Foot Print,Mass Street Music, Cottins Hardware, very nice parks and the new hike and bike trail These are but a few of the wonderful attractions to East Lawrence. And paid for public schools.

  • East Lawrence is not dying and is home to many many many college graduates, common” laborers", the retired, musicians/artists... can we say diversity.

Alceste 6 years, 7 months ago

When will the Lied Center after a useful Senior Discount? Answer: NEVER. Why? The Lied Center doesn't want poor folk cluttering up the aisles where the blue hairs and blue bloods chit chat before and after well as during intermissions. If you can't afford full fare as a Senior, we don't want you is what the Lied Center's attitude is......very retiree friendly.

While it is not written, it is understood: Lawrence wants WEALTHY retirees.....not "....those in the middle paying full fare....." nor those eligible for public assistance.

irvan moore 6 years, 7 months ago

the school board landed a retiree from california but they had to pay her 85k to come

kansasredlegs 6 years, 7 months ago

And KU grabbed a retired Chancellor from UNC for only $485K per annum while she gloms off her NC retirement at the tune of $250K per year. Gotta love them gov'ment jobs and those Platinum Parachutes.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 6 years, 7 months ago

No way, I like living in the country too much. Thank you, Lynn

squawkhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

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You may be ready to quit your day job - but that doesn't mean you want to sit around all day. These places, selected by Money Magazine with Bert Sperling of, all offer thriving economies and plenty to do. Money Magazine

Manhattan, KS Population: 44,630 15-year population growth: 3.3% Median home price: $188,600 Home price 2-year forecast: 1.8%

About 120 miles west of Kansas City, "The Little Apple" is home to Kansas State University and Fort Riley, one of the largest U.S. military installations. With natural beauty that includes Tuttle Creek Lake's 15,000 acres, the city also features golf galore as well as numerous arts and entertainment offerings. The historic Aggieville shopping district will help you stroll away many a breezy afternoon. For that special something: Block off the last weekend in June on your calendar and make sure you attend the Country Stampede Music Festival.

friendlyjhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

The article's couple sound like delightful people. Their pocket books had better be easy and quick to open. As a retiree in Lawrence I am selling my home and looking to downsize to a MUCH smaller place. Taxes and utilities are eating up my good retirement income monthly. Lawrence seems to give great lip service to wanting to make this a good place to retire but that is all it is-lip service. Seriously considering leaving Lawrence. It isn't the senior discounts from the fast food industry that help senior citizens. It is not being taxed one way on one side of town and another on the other side and having to keep up with which is which, taxed for a library make over that is ugly and not user friendly, watching certain contractors and business get incentives so they can take my money for their services, and told being told how to handle my trash and shovel my snow. Of course these are not just senior problems but problems for all the citizens of Lawrence. Lawrence's ego is bigger then its benefits.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

ditto, although I see a larger and larger group of lower income folks looking for a better life here. Good, the American way, except many are moving for the freebees.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 7 months ago

Why woud ANYONE want to come to this one-horse town? There are virtually no jobs that do not require an IT degree or 15 years of experience. The rents are outrageous and the property tax rates confiscatory. The downtown is strewn with homeless and listless who have heard the national call that Lawrence panders to these sorts of folks. The city government is elected by those want no growth, no tax base, mosquito ridden "wetlands", roundabouts, and other foolish and stupid concepts.

Why would anyone who had lived a long and full life come to this dumpy town where the only source of income is from a state university with very little opportunity for things that matter to reired people? Lawrence, the stagnant pool on the Kaw.

Dan Blomgren 6 years, 7 months ago

Could the picture for this article be any more misleading? The average 86 year old is sitting at home, overweight, and hooked up to an oxygen tank not flying biplanes! Lawrence has high crime especially for its size, a high income tax rate, and high real estate tax rate due to our low industrial market. The wealthy retired have plenty of reasons (some stated above) to retire elsewhere.

acouch 6 years, 7 months ago

You can find more information about the push to attract retirees, here:

steveguy 6 years, 7 months ago

They could have picked a better place than Lawrence to retire. I have lived here all my life, I should know.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 7 months ago

I have lived here for 40 years, came here out of college and then back from the Navy for a career that I now know was non-existant with a company that was populated with massive egos and has been on a roller coaster ride for all of those 40 years. Other employments were tenative, part time, temporary (one of our largest employers in the business park on K10 only hires "temporary workers"). I was retired last October and was lucky to find part time employment to supplement my social security. I am also fortunate to still have a qualified dependant adult son living with me and helping with the expenses.

Lawrence just plain sucks for workers, retirees, families and almost everyone else. It is overpriced, under served and run by a city government that is just plain clueless and incompetant. I think the shamefully low voter turnout might have something to do with this.

If I could afford it and did not have family here, I would move back to where I came from, at least there they have civil service jobs for military veterans who have some opportunities that this crummy town does not even know exist or give a rat's ass about. Attract retirees, indeed!!! Who the hell thinks that will fly???

somedude20 6 years, 7 months ago

Be happy old people because anyone under 50 is going to get the shaft! Retirement will mean death, not being job-free for your last few years on earth

patkindle 6 years, 7 months ago

if you have a ton of money plus live and breath KU sports this is the place to live if not, good luck retiring and moving to lawrence

Jayhawk1963 6 years, 7 months ago

What is this New Generation Society ? I have lived in Lawrence nearly my entire adult life and have never heard of it. Kind of sounds like an organization of well-to-do retired KU professors and/or administrators. You should have provided more details, Aaron. Rather poor journalism.

Bill Lee 6 years, 7 months ago

I moved here in 1967 and have moved away three times, coming back each time. I am now retired and will not move away again. This is my home.

I have several friends who have told me they'll be mving back to Lawrence in the near future. A few others would move here today if their wives (who've never been here) would let them.

Christine Anderson 6 years, 7 months ago

Well, I don't expect to retire here either. If I'm still around at "retirement age", I'm going home to Wi.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 7 months ago

Deciding were to recite depends on where family and frendom live, but they move. We moved to Lawrence 30+ years ago. I've travelled quite a bit. Lawrence is an appealing community. Moving somewhere else just means different community weaknesses.

Our family lives in various states. Our friends are here. MCI is easily accessed from any state. Property taxes are not that bad. What would make us move?

  1. Looking for more medical services.
  2. The ability to downsize without moving to a neighborhood full of students.
  3. Better transportation.
  4. A relief from Kansas politics that may affect our medical services.

impska 6 years, 7 months ago

I would never have guessed that Lawrence was interested in retirees in any way. This does not look like a retiree-friendly town.

Frankly, the comparison to Victoria, BC is pretty laughable. That KU professor isn't the only person to admire Victoria - it is a vacation destination that is famous for its gardens, its charm, its weather, and its beauty. It is also quite expensive. The average house price in Victoria is somewhere around $600,000. It doesn't bear the remotest resemblance to Lawrence. It's easy to have impressive senior services when health care is universal and the seniors are rich.

That said, seniors aren't going to come to Lawrence for the hip bar-scene and downtown living. Has anyone noticed how all of the retirement communities are in West Lawrence? If the city was truly interested in attracting seniors, it would be looking for ways to make West Lawrence a senior destination. If you're interested in seniors, then wouldn't a senior center make a better choice than a rec center in West Lawrence? Wouldn't a satellite library in West Lawrence have made better sense than an expansion of the downtown library? Shouldn't the city be looking at putting a nice garden park with lots of benches within walking distance of all those retirement communities?

Sorry, but attracting the 55+ crowd does not look to be on the city's list of priorities. Maybe people down at city hall chat about how nice it would be to have more retirees, but there is no evidence of action on that front.

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