The Sarasota Story -
as seen in Herald Tribune
USA Today published a feature explaining why many of today’s retirees are opting for bright lights and big cities. The article, by Rodney Brooks, quoted extensively from the popular website TopRetirements.com.
“Retirement is like a second chance at life,” says the web site’s founder John Brady. “Retirees are asking ‘What do I want from life?’ It’s not living in the ‘burbs. Boomers want to go to plays and movies; and are uniquely positioned to take advantage of what cities have to offer.”
Brooks then recommends New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as exactly the sort of walkable cities where retirees can live in neighborhoods with far less dependence on cars to move them from one desirable amenity to another.
In the same breath as these older and larger cities, Brooks also recommends Sarasota.
“It has an urban downtown, but many walkable neighborhoods close by,” he writes. “There is lots happening, and it is quite possibly the cultural capital of Florida. And great beaches and keys nearby.”
That night, in a downtown bistro, we struck up a conversation with a couple who had just retired to Sarasota from suburban New York City. Ever curious as to why so many Baby Boomers choose our area for life’s second act, we posed that question directly. Their answers suddenly put human faces on everything the USA Today article had to say.
“Every year our winter vacation usually involved replacing a week or two of snow and ice with its equivalent in sunshine and surf,” the male half of the couple said. “More often than not we ended up somewhere in the Caribbean. Last winter—for a change—we came to Sarasota to visit friends who had just moved to Venice. To say that our first trip here was a game-changer is an understatement.”
“For me, it was the experience of waking up to sunshine every morning, doing Pilates on the beach before breakfast, having freshly-caught seafood for lunch, a little siesta in the afternoon; then night after night of theatre, music, dance and dining out,” said she. “We even went to the opera—and were amazed at how good it was!”
“For me,” he chimed in, “it was day after day of golf, fishing, good food; and plenty to do after the sun goes down.”
Still, the true light bulb moment for each of them didn’t come until just after their departing flight took off.
“As we caught a final glimpse of the Sarasota skyline, its palm-lined neighborhoods and shoreline that stretched as far as the eye could see, we asked ourselves: Why should we spend another winter craving a week’s worth of what people here enjoy all year long?”
From that moment on, the couple began investigating every major market on peninsular Florida’s east and west coasts—from Palm Beach down to Key Largo, around to Naples and up to Clearwater. But their hearts and minds always hearkened back to Sarasota.
“We fell for Sarasota because it has the cultural amenities of a big, cosmopolitan city, the unhurried pace of a small town; and the look and feel of a great resort area,” she said. “It has museums, universities and galleries for me, sports and recreational opportunities for him, plenty of social outlets for the two of us; and a sophisticated health care system geared to the medical needs we’ll no doubt face as we grow older.”
“At the end of the day,” she added “warm weather, golf and beautiful beaches were very important to us. But once we understood that Sarasota had the extra dimension of being a small town with a huge cultural scene, we stopped checking out other markets.”