Charleston's 'liveability' ranked in top 10
Charleston has been named as one of 2018’s best places to retire by Livability.com. Well, we could have told them that! They ranked cities in many areas, including: community engagement, safety, hospital quality, affordability, residents over 65, activities and recreation, cost of primary care, air quality, natural disaster risk, climate, property tax and nursing home accessibility and quality. Charleston was right up there in the top 10.
After a hectic but wonderful first chapter in Ohio, Charleston looked like the perfect place to begin “chapter two” for my husband and me. Living someplace new would definitely take away that ache of loneliness that we felt as our footsteps echoed in our large, almost empty home, as well as being a totally different experience.
What we found in Charleston was a real city with history, charm, a wonderful college, medical university, culture, fantastic food and opportunities for us to grow and learn, but it was small enough to navigate easily. There was nothing about it that felt like a retirement place. And—we could still go to the beach, take long walks, read on the porch...just some of the activities that we didn’t have much time for in our other life. We didn’t really think about that other livability stuff too much, until that other stuff came to us.
We knew that we would miss our friends and family when we left Ohio, and we still do, but what we found was a community of people our ages, who were in the same boat, so to speak, and eager to meet new folks and enjoy new experiences. “Make new friends, but keep the old…” a mantra from Brownies was proving to be possible.
The food in Charleston is not one of the categories on the list, but, OMG—I think this city can compete with any foodie place, anywhere in the world.
Another extremely attractive reason for retiring to Charleston, which wasn’t on the livability list but should have been, is animal lover-ability. Dogs are welcome almost anywhere and pet talk is a way to form an immediate bond with any number of very diverse people.
We learned immediately of the natural disaster risk, having to evacuate just a week after we moved down here. Hurricanes were definitely something new to us. Even so, we felt pretty smug that the days of snow, ice and blizzards were behind us…well, maybe last winter was just a fluke!
So, the climate is ideal, in my opinion (except for July and August, which are seriously not liveable, at least for us Midwesterners).
On the topic of healthcare, it was like our bodies were just waiting for retirement so they could implode. There was rotator cuff surgery -- a product of an over-abundance of retirement golf, pneumonia times two, ear tubes – and yes, really, broken ribs and clavicle (the risk of biking on the not so safe Charleston highways -- more about that.) Perhaps one of us embraced the abundance of physical activities, that he didn’t have time for when he was working full time, a little too enthusiastically. And yes -- for the most part, hospitals and medical people are good down here. As far as Medicare, well, the system works. We won’t talk about prescriptions because that’s an issue everywhere.
Our toned down, easy breezy retirement home has turned out to be the most expensive house we’ve ever lived in, especially the upkeep…who knew what the Charleston climate could cause? We didn’t even know what power washing was until we moved here!
Safety is a double-edged sword. I do feel very safe in our community. Maybe I should be more wary, but I’m not -- except about coyotes when it comes to our puppy. I didn’t keep a baseball bat on the porch of our old house.
However, every time I get behind the wheel, that feeling of safety goes right out the window…and I am often remarking to my puppy, “We’re not in Ohio anymore, Ivy.” (I guess I do compare the two places, sometimes.)
South Carolinians are lovely when they are not driving. No one in Ohio would ever believe what the drivers are like here, and traffic laws appear not to apply to pick-up truck drivers. It is almost a daily occurrence that someone cuts me off, missing me by less than a centimeter and often, to add insult to injury, a lit cigarette may be heaved out the window, right in the path of my car.
Air quality? Hmmm -- there are a lot of smokers. There is also the pluff mud smell that South Carolinians love…I have to admit, it grows on you. The mosquitoes and enormous bugs not so much, although there are some people who joke about palmetto bugs being the state pet.
So affordability -- yeah, that works for the most part -- but there is the element that not only do we want to be in Charleston, but so does everyone else. I have never washed so many sheets and towels or bought so much toilet paper in my life. I have never run my dishwasher or stocked my refrigerator more -- ever! We do love having company, but we don’t fool ourselves that the only reason people come to stay with us is to bask in our scintillating personalities. And, I’ve been on at least 15 carriage rides downtown.
So, yes, occasionally we drive by the gorgeous new retirement facility on the island, (very accessible) that we hear has a movie theater, hair salon, choice of restaurants, indoor pool and cleaning service, and look at it a tiny bit longingly….whenever we are on our way to the grocery to stock up for the next round of guests. But first we have to gas up and run through the carwash to get the bugs and ashes off the car.
Vicki Bernie is a freelance writer, wife, mother, grandmother, and dog person…loving “Chapter Two” on Daniel Island.