By Emily Kresse
Students and retirees have a common ground in calling Iowa City home.
Educational opportunities, cultural activities, affordable housing, and high-quality health care are all reasons students flock to the University of Iowa and Iowa City. As it turns out, these are the same reasons Iowa City is considered one of the best places to age in the country.
Recently, Iowa City was featured in a New York Times article, “Some Cities to Grow Old In,” as a city that’s age-friendly. Other cities listed were Portland, Oregon, New York City, and Madison, Wisconsin.
In 2014, Iowa City was ranked first among small cities to age successfully in by the Milken Institute and in that ranking was first in health care and fifth in transportation and convenience.
Emily Light Edrington, a community-outreach specialist for the Senior Center, said Iowa City is a good place to age as a result of a community invested in an older population. This is evident as the Center is a division in the city government.
“Iowa City is kind of special in that the city government actually supports senior services and resources through its tax dollars,” Light Edrington said.
The Senior Center, which opened in 1981, has been a place for people 50 and over to come together and participate in art classes, health-care initiatives, fitness programs, and much more.
Light Edrington said Iowa City’s mix of good health care, accessible restaurants, and retail stores “add up to being a really positive community to grow older in.”
“Our proximity to the university really feeds a lot of culture back into the community,” she said.
Former UI professors have given lectures at the the Center, which is how Iowa City resident Dorothy Scandurra was able to take an endocrinology class from former UI biology Professor Eugene Spaziani.
Scandurra has lived in Iowa City since she retired as a music teacher around 12 years ago. Originally from Manhattan, Scandurra retired to Iowa City to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law. She said she has had plenty to do since moving here because of the cultural opportunities, which is augmented by the proximity to the UI.
“We know so much in our lives,” she said about retirees. “Iowa City is more intellectually satisfying.”
Scandurra has been involved at the Senior Center in a variety of activities but prefers the artistic options best, she said. She is working on a musical production with her close friend and fellow retiree Patrick Nefzger.
Linda Kopping, the coordinator of the Senior Center, said she was not surprised the Times article cited Iowa City as a good place to age.
“I think Iowa City provides a lot of opportunities for people, and as the director of the Senior Center, I see a lot of people who, as they retire, are moving to Iowa City either for the first time or returning here after living in other places,” she said.
Simon Andrew, the assistant to the city manager, said both the local government and the overall community are both concerned with making Iowa City a welcoming place for an aging population.
From items in zoning codes created to incentivize senior-housing projects to the increase in mixed-use development downtown, Iowa City continues to create spaces for diverse age groups, he said.
“Research is finding that younger people and retirees are looking for a lot of the same attributes in a community that they want to be in, both in terms of the nature of our vibrant downtown, but also that connectivity to people outside of your own age group,” Andrew said.