Lourene Pigg intended to spend her retirement in the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, where she had lived and worked for decades.
But her children, who had moved to the Tyler area, spent years enticing her to move here. With every visit, her children took Ms. Pigg, now 74, to see Tyler's attractions and shop for a home to buy.
But, it wasn't until she toured a model home in the developing Meadow Lake retirement community south of Tyler that she became hooked on the idea of living here.
On Nov. 1, 2010, she became one of Meadow Lake's first residents, two months before that community officially opened. Today, Mead-
ow Lake has almost 200 residents.
“I love it,” Ms. Pigg said of living here. “I've never regretted my decision to move here.”
The Tyler area's visibility as a retirement community got a boost earlier this month thanks to a national website.
The website greatplacestoretire.com recently ranked Tyler as the nation's No. 2 community in which to retire, second only to Clarksville, Tenn.
A GREAT PLACE
The only other Texas city to make the list was Georgetown, which came in at No. 6. That town has been a growing retirement area thanks in part to the development of Sun City Georgetown starting in the mid-1990s.
Others making the list were Athens, Ga., at No. 3, followed by Colorado Springs, Colo., and Fayetteville, Ark. Bowling Green, Ky., placed No. 7, followed by Greenville, S.C., Iowa City, Iowa, and Fort Collins, Colo.
Tyler distinguished itself with its home price appreciation, population growth, water quality, medical care and diversity. The site described the climate as “warm and humid,” with the area known for its lakes and rivers.
Other factors the site listed as ranking factors included air quality, taxes, crime statistics, manmade and natural hazard risks, family income and nearest large city.
“It's very exciting to get that kind of accolade,” said Kim Morris, assistant vice president of marketing and communications for the Tyler Conventions and Visitors Bureau. “Tyler is a great retirement community. We're the first place in Texas to be recognized as a retirement community. We went out and got it created in Tyler.”
Ms. Morris said Tyler is popular among retirees for its access to health care, entertainment venues, tax rates and climate.
“Those are kinds of things that retirees are looking for,” she said.
Ms. Morris said tourism, which is the Conventions and Visitors Bureau's primary focus, becomes the initial carrot for retirees.
The Meadow Lake retirement community formally opened in early 2011 off County Road 165 near Old Jacksonville Highway.
The community offers a residential mix ranging from independent living in houses and apartments to assisted living and skilled nursing care.
Preston Smith, Meadow Lake's marketing director, said the community is about 80 percent full, with 198 residents. They've come here from places such as Dallas and Arkansas and as far away as Pennsylvania, he said.
“In the future, we'll have some more phases opening, with more executive homes and more garden homes,” Smith said. “The whole point of our community is that Tyler really needed a continuing care retirement facility.
“I think you'll see more and more of these types of properties developing.”
The analysis noted that the average household of seniors between ages 55 and 64 spends $49,819 annually, while the spending is $40,166 for households of seniors 65 to 74 years old and $28,477 for the age group beyond 75.
The study also noted a spike in the Tyler metropolitan statistical area's senior population from 2001 to 2010. The senior population grew to 53,692 in 2010, up from 41,442 in 2001. Seniors composed 26 percent of the area's population in 2010, up from 23 percent nine years earlier.
Tyler Assistant City Manager Susan Guthrie said the city, chamber and other community entities in 2010 included retirees in the Industry Growth Initiative, whose goal is to focus on a more innovative and diverse economy with less emphasis on manufacturing.
Retirees were part of the plan's economic building blocks, as were industries such as medical, energy and higher education.
Tom Mullins, president and CEO of the Tyler Economic Development Council, said that with the vanguard of Baby Boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964, now hitting retirement age, retirees are a growing part of the local economy.
“I think they are going to be one of the spokes of new wealth coming into the economy,” Mullins said. “Tyler is fortunate that we have a lot of sources of revenue. Tyler is more diverse than it's ever been.
“We've known for a long time that a lot of Baby Boomers are going to be relocating. Studies have shown that 20 million of them are going to move to somewhere else when they retire. A lot of them are going to move to the Sun Belt and have been for a lot of years. Texas is going to benefit from that migration, and Tyler is going to get its share.”
“It is not our goal to make Tyler a Sun City, like parts of Florida or Arizona,” he said, referring to the colossal retirement communities in those states. “We knew Baby Boomers were going to have a big impact on the national economy.
“We want to be retiree-friendly and have that be a part of the overall economic structure, not one upon which we are overly dependent. We shouldn't be dependent on any one industry.”
Mullins pointed out that while the retiree population here is growing, residents in their mid-30s represent the fastest-growing population segment.
“We're not an aging city,” he said. “We're actually a young city, even though we've had some success at attracting retirees.”
The medical community, higher education, the public school system and technology represent the heavyweights of economic development here, he added.
Ms. Pigg spent 29 years as an educator before retiring and making her way to Tyler.
One of the things that attracted her here wasn't factored into the greatplacestoretire.com rankings: the church community.
In fact, Ms. Pigg said she sees religion permeating throughout the community, and she likes that.
“It's a good place for families,” she said. “I like the fact that it's a faith-based community. On the news they talk about prayer.”
But horticulture-friendly climate also is a plus, she said.
“I love the climate,” she said. “I love flowers.”