Retirement gives many seniors the freedom to explore and live someplace new. Thousands of retirees relocate every year, often escaping cities or northern states for smaller towns and warmer climates. Some are looking for a state with more retirement-friendly tax structures, some are seeking a lower cost of living, and some are chasing warmer winters. Florida, New Mexico, and Arizona still top the list for many, but other locations are starting to show up on the radar. One of these locations is Roanoke, Virginia.
Roanoke was rated as an above average small city to retire to in the Milken Institute’s “Best Cities for Successful Aging” study. A smaller city of about 310,000, Roanoke’s low crime rate, good air quality, and mild climate are just a few of the city’s draws for retirees.
There are financial benefits to retiring in Virginia. Financial experts at Kiplinger rate the state as “tax friendly” for retirees. The state does not tax Social Security benefits, and residents 65 and older can deduct income up to $12,000 per person depending on income levels. In 2017, Nasdaq.com rated Virginia as the #7 best state to retire to, citing their higher-than-average household income rates for seniors. Virginia does not have an estate or inheritance tax.
The costs of health care in Virginia are slightly lower than the national average. The average health care costs for a retired couple in Virginia are $408,950, while the national average costs are $423,523.
Roanoke is convenient for travelers and visitors. Roanoke’s airport, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, has nonstop flights to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando, and St. Petersburg, FL. The city is located on Interstate 81.
The Roanoke area boasts good air quality and a mild climate. Summer temperatures are often in the 70s. You can escape harsh northeastern or midwestern winters with winter temperatures averaging in the high 30s. It does snow in the winter, but it’s light, with an average annual snowfall of about 20 inches.
Natural beauty is where the Roanoke Valley really stands out. Forbes listed the city as one of the “25 Great Scenic Places to Retire To” in 2017. Roanoke is close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the famous scenic highway that runs from Afton, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. The Parkway’s Milepost 120 is only a 15-minute drive from downtown Roanoke.
It’s easy to stay active in Roanoke. The region is known for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and paddling. Hiking trails, greenways, and biking paths are numerous. Roanoke is also the largest city on the Appalachian Trail. Many trails near the city are rated as easy or moderate hikes and feature waterfalls, scenic cliffs, and spectacular views. Try the trails at Mill Mountain Park, only five minutes from downtown Roanoke. The park also features the Mill Mountain Zoo and the Roanoke Star. Eighty-eight feet tall and built in 1949, the star was originally intended as a Christmas decoration but is now a beloved landmark and symbol of the area.
The Roanoke area has plenty of cultural activities for residents and visitors (so you can keep the grandkids busy when they visit). Automotive and train enthusiasts should visit the Virginia Museum of Transportation in downtown Roanoke. History buffs will enjoy Civil War battlefields, the History Museum of Western Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.
For seniors who want to stay sharp or learning something new, the Virginia State Council of Higher Education provides a free college program for residents over 60. Part-time students may register for and audit any courses in any Virginia higher education institution. Courses are available at Virginia Western Community College and Roanoke Higher Education Center in Roanoke, at Virginia Tech in nearby Blacksburg, at Radford University in Radford, and New River Community College in Dublin. Virginia Tech also has a Lifelong Learning Institute, and Roanoke College in nearby Salem has a lecture series for seniors called Elderscholar.