retirement

Augusta, Ga.: A Great Small City for Retiring in Good Health

This city known for the Masters golf tournament appeals to many -- from sports enthusiasts to nature lovers.

Population: 197,182

Cost of living: 89.3 (national median: 100)

Median home price: $122,000 (national median: $185,000)

Healthy highlight: State-of-the-art health care through the Augusta University Medical Center

While most sports enthusiasts associate Augusta with the storied Masters tournament, there’s much more to this city than golf. The towpath along the Augusta Canal, built in 1845, is popular with runners, walkers and bikers, and adjacent trails provide plenty of opportunities to commune with nature. Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, minutes from downtown Augusta, also offers 14 miles of hiking trails.

You’ll find plenty of ways to keep your mind active, too. Residents who are 62 or older can take classes in everything from art history to computer programming free at Augusta University on a space-available basis. Richard Crim, 67, says the educational offerings for retirees was one of several pleasant surprises he discovered after retiring to Augusta last year.

Recognized by AARP as an age-friendly city, Augusta is revitalizing its downtown area to add housing, public transportation and sidewalks, making it more attractive to seniors and empty nesters, says Mayor Hardie Davis. The Miller Theater, a 1940s-era movie palace downtown that was once one of the largest theaters in Georgia, is being renovated to serve as the future home of the Symphony Orchestra Augusta. The grand opening is scheduled for fall 2017.

Augusta is home to Augusta University Health, a health care network that includes the 478-bed Augusta University Medical Center. The network offers a long list of specialists, including doctors who focus on oncology, geriatrics and senior health.

Retirees looking to buy a home in the area may want to check out Forest Hills, an upscale enclave of historic homes near the Forest Hills Golf Club. Home prices in the neighborhood range from about $250,000 to more than $700,000. During the Masters, many locals earn extra income by renting their homes to visitors for $600 to more than $1,000 per night.

Georgia provides generous tax breaks for its older residents. Social Security is exempt from state taxes, along with up to $35,000 of most retirement income for those between the ages of 62 and 64. For residents 65 and older, the exemption jumps to $65,000, or up to $130,000 for a couple.

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