Best Healthy Places to Retire: Boulder, Colorado

Sure, the tax burden is kind of big. But the awesome Rocky Mountains are even bigger.

This group of active seniors keeps fit by regularly hiking in and around Boulder, Colo.

This group of active seniors keeps fit by regularly hiking in and around Boulder, Colo.

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Every Wednesday, as many as 12 women gather in the mountains near Boulder, Colo. They've hit the trail together for three decades, on foot and often on skis. Even now that they're all north of 65 years old, and despite some artificial knees and hips, 10 miles round trip isn't unusual. It would exhaust most young men.

And it isn't just exercise. "We've taken each other through divorces and through our children's divorces," says Betsy Caplan, 74. The gaggle does more than its share of giggling and gossiping up and down the mountains.

To the south, Denver enjoys a view of the Rockies. In Boulder, they almost rise from downtown. The mountains so dominate this city, you have to wonder what it offers a less- rugged retiree. Quite a bit, it seems.

Boulder is rare in staffing its own senior services solely from local resources. City employees not only run senior programs at two recreation centers, they take on individual cases, helping the sick navigate insurers, the infirm get transportation, and the lonely find friends. "The senior services are something you just don't see elsewhere," says Hope Thompson, 82. She should know, having lived for years in Florida.

A daily walk. Florida also offered nothing like Boulder's web of bus lines, says Thompson, who's still a spry walker. She strolls a mile and a half every day, starting around a little pond across the street from her condo. The pond is oddly pastoral with its cattails amid homes, condos, and a nearby highway. There's a nature obsession in Boulder, whose crunchiness is encouraged by students at the University of Colorado. They help fill the plentiful natural-foods shops and bike trails and they push their elders, says Sheila Delamere, 70. "You see all these young, athletic people, and you just want to jump in."

But it is city residents who tax themselves to buy open spaces. That makes for lots of green here, not all retiree-friendly. Antidevelopment feeling translates into high taxes and expensive housing. "The cost of living is the one big downside to Boulder," says Crif Crawford, 79, who nonetheless enjoys a corner of those green spaces. There, he tends vegetables amid a sprawling community garden.

When he isn't golfing, that is. It's one thing Crawford says is cheaper here. And it's year-round golfing. Winter brings more days in the 50s and 60s than it does snow, residents say, and Boulder is more sunny than gloomy in winter. The inevitable snow melts quickly, says Mary Anne Eckert, 74, who concedes she can get anxious to be back on her bike. Then she laughs. "But I can just stay home. I'm retired."