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All the more for us, then

Retirees here scoff at a Web site calling Clearwater the worst place to retire.

By ESCHULTEN
Published December 12, 2007


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CLEARWATER

You're kidding, right?

Clearwater is the worst place in the nation to retire?

Worse than Anchorage, Alaska?

Queens, N.Y.?

Rhode Island?

Yep, according to AOL.com's Money & Finance section, worse than anywhere.

In a new ranking, AOL contends this "hamlet" - referred to as "Clearwater City" - is awful for seniors partly because of "the bland culture, extreme weather and high real estate and homeowner's insurance prices of Florida."

But the biggest reason for the rap was that the city already has too many old people. Clearwater has the highest percentage of residents 65 and older - 21.5 percent - of any other city with more than 100,000 residents in the country, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

In reaction, the AOL article says, some retirees who came here from the Northeast have decided to "abandon" Clearwater and move to the Carolinas.

Strangely, the ranking is accompanied on AOL's Web site by a photo of a postcard-perfect beach sunset. And a few slots down, Anchorage is rapped not for having too many retirees, but too few.

The whole thing baffles Clearwater boosters.

"My initial thought was, 'Where are they coming from?'" said Mayor Frank Hibbard.

Also mystified is Beth Coleman, president and CEO of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"Obviously, we don't agree with that," she said. "I think we have a lot of fabulous attributes. There is access to health care, tremendous arts and culture....We have Ruth Eckerd Hall and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We are within driving distance of the museums in St. Pete and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center."

Then there are the beaches, the golf and the fishing.

"And all the professional teams," Coleman said. "We also have spring training, the Threshers and great parks, bike trails and libraries."

"There aren't all these people here because it's such a miserable place," she said.

Bruce Bandini, 68, wouldn't live anywhere else.

"One of the things they mentioned was that there was a bland culture," he said. "I'm an usher at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tony Bennett was just here. We're top-notch in that area."

What about the "extreme weather?"

"That's appropriate for here," he said.

And the high cost of living?

"Prices are high all across the country," he said.

And all the old people?

"Sure, we've got an older population," said Bandini, a retired coffee shop owner and pharmacy technician who moved here from Long Island, N.Y., in 1973. "But hell, that's a fact of life. It can make for a more stable society. They aren't involved in drugs or alcohol."

David McKinnon, 64, lives half the year in Clearwater and half in Canada. He likes to work out at the Long Center and said that the overall quality of life in Clearwater is "very good."

"I find everything convenient, everything is close by," he said. "In terms of safety, I feel very safe here."

Oddly enough, another list on the AOL Money & Finance Web site ranks "Tampa Bay, Fla." as one of the best "cities" for retirees.

"It's silly," Hibbard said of the list. "Hopefully, the retirees will do more research than the journalist did. No offense."

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Fast facts

On the Web

For a look at AOL.com's ranking, visit http://money.aol.com/retirement/worst-places-to-retire.

[Last modified December 11, 2007, 22:31:33]


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