LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk

Lawrence trails places like Branson and Salina in study of Midwest retirement communities


The New Year is coming, and I’m sure so too will my tried and true resolution of vowing to start playing my old guitar again.

Well this year, maybe it will stick because it looks like me playing my guitar is the only thing needed to make Lawrence a Grade A retirement destination.

There’s a new report out by the folks with American Cities Business Journals that finds Branson, Mo., is the top retirement community in the Midwest. The authors of the study opine that its status as the Live Music Show Capital of America is one of the city’s calling cards as a retirement destination.

So, be on the lookout for Cousin Chad and the Empty Bottle Band, and you all can thank me later.

But the report also suggests Lawrence may need one other item to fulfill its relatively new goal of becoming a destination for retirees: Greasy hamburgers.

I’m talking greasy hamburgers in the miniature style of the Cozy Inn in Salina. That’s right, Salina ranks above Lawrence and every other city in Kansas as a retirement destination. I’m assuming it is because retirees flock there to tick off their doctors and their pesky cholesterol charts.

In fact, quite a few cities in Kansas ranked above Lawrence as a retirement destination. Of the six cities in Kansas ranked, Lawrence was next to last.

But I’m not sure this study should cause Lawrence to abandon its plans to become a retirement destination. (If you remember, the city and the county have created a new board that is tasked with making the community more retiree-friendly. The effort likely will draw funding from both governments in the coming year.)

The study by the good folks at The Business Journals Web site seems to be a bit weighted against college communities. Among the factors the study considers is how many retirees currently are living in a community. It does that by looking at the total percentage of the population that is 65 or older. Lawrence’s percentage is always going to be lower than a non-college community. The study also looks at the median age of a community’s residents, I guess with the thought that retirees will want to be around other retirees. Again, a college community won’t fare well in that category.

But there was one category where Lawrence did fare well: The percentage of retirees who were born out of state. I think this category is meant to measure how attractive a community is to retirees, with the assumption that people who were born elsewhere are making a conscious decision to retiree in the community.

Out of the 153 Midwest cities that were studied, Lawrence had the 9th highest percentage in this category — although Wichita and Kansas City actually ranked 8th and 3rd, respectively.

Maybe the folks at The Business Journals are on to something. Maybe university communities aren’t well-suited to be retirement communities, but several are trying to do so. They’re betting that the cultural and entertainment events that come with a university — plus the found memories of youth created by a university — will make college communities a magnet for the soon-to-retire Baby Boomer generation.

Lawrence is set to find out over the next few years. I’ll keep my picking thumb limbered up just in case we need a boost.

Anyway, here’s the list of Kansas communities and their ranking in the study of 153 Midwestern cities:

• No. 38: Salina

• No. 52: Topeka

• No. 56: Wichita

• No. 57: Hutchinson

• No. 147: Lawrence

• No. 148: Manhattan

The top five overall in the Midwest are:

• No. 1: Branson, Mo.

• No. 2: Brainerd, Minn.

• No. 3 Fergus Falls, Minn.

• No. 4: Sandusky, Ohio

• No. 5: Marinette, Wis.

You can see the full list, here.


cowboy 5 years, 6 months ago

Chad , your headline is way to charitable. It should read " Lawrence is rock bottom in attracting retirees".

While Lawrence might be a good place to come die , i.e. nursing homes and medical care , it offers little for an active retiree. I retire in about four years and outside of KU sports and my grandkids sports there is little attraction to staying here not to mention that thing called winter.

The folly of the local pols spending tax dollars to paint the area as a destination is ridiculous.

Steve Bunch 5 years, 6 months ago

The Spring schedule isn't up yet, but you might consider the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at KU. It offers a lot of variety and interaction at a modest price.


Catalano 5 years, 6 months ago

Pre-empting the inevitable Wilbur comment.

dustybird 5 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, I left Lawrence 30 yrs ago and tried not to look back. I left Kansas numerous times and was led back. Now I have left it for the last time and I am enjoying being retired in Branson, MO. I live in an apt complex with lots of other seniors and am within 3 miles of wally world, Dollar General, and other grocery stores, not to mention medications. Hard to believe that I turn 69 in a few short weeks while a brother living in Tx, turns 80 the day before. Branson is a city that is always changing (especially after the Tornado last Feb. 29. Live musical performances that are avail at select times for a mere $5 each.
Writer mentioned weather. Today, the most adverse condition is the wind which is gusting at times to over 50 mph. Very very seldom there is anything you could consider WIND. Generally it's around, at best, 10 mph. Which is a gentle breeze compared to Kansas...especially Wichita.

The only I intend to leave Branson is in a small cigar box!

Patricia Davis 5 years, 6 months ago

If we could afford to retire somewhere else, we would. I wish Lawrence had become the city it thought it was: quality education for our children, forward thinking about being green, a city connected by well designed and safe walking and biking trails, a city that built remarkable public architecture, a city government focused on creating the ideal oasis on the plains with a keen eye on the bottom line but making wise investments in the core services including safe water and well maintained streets. It could have happened...

John Hamm 5 years, 6 months ago

What do you expect? Take a look around Lawrence! High taxes. Utterly, totally, completely Liberal. Lousy transportation services. Terrible city management. Great if you can afford Basketball tickets maybe Football again one of these days. Totally "College" oriented. And you think you're gonna garner the market on wealthy retirees....... SMH

Terry Sexton 5 years, 6 months ago

I love it here. This side of the fence looks plenty green to me.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

Considering Kansas is 9th in the nation on sales tax Lawrence,Kansas must be near the top ten in the nation regarding sales tax.

Additionally Lawrence has been approving back door sales taxes on projects such as Baur Farms so developers have more profits on their investments cuz this sales tax money DOES NOT come back to taxpayers. Now Lawrence is at about 10.85% sales tax in some locations.

Giving away $12 million gifts cuz developers say they cannot make money on a project is more reckless spending. The answer to that situation is " hey developer don't build it"

Over building = over extending the existing tax dollar pie = reckless spending = high tax dollar Lawrence,Kansas.

For the past 15 years Lawrence has been building residential and retail based on what might happen = speculation. Lawrence is a real population of about 68,000 = no that big. Lawrence has been building and spending as if there is a tax base of about 2 million taxpayers.

Cart before the horse = good paying jobs have taken a back seat to over building residential and retail. This must be supply side wreckanomics.

The Field House and more over building of west Lawrence cannot create the miracle nor cover the cost of fiscal irresponsibility.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence, Kansas may well be a tax dollar money hole.

Lawrence is going after retirees , going after more sports activities and still trying to become some retail giant. In other words no plan at all just helter skelter do this do that.

All of which must be stolen from other cities and neighbors who will not take kindly to such nonsense.

All of the above is taking taxpayers to the cleaners. Retired seniors are smart people... too bad Lawrence movers and shakers have so little respect.

Filling up downtown with more bar/grills and less family shopping is not that attractive. Lawrence retail will never be able to compete with KCMO metro shopping opportunities.

An up to date Vo Tech Campus would have been a more responsible investment than over loading the housing and retail markets.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.