Why seniors say Forsyth County is a great place to retire

Michelle Hall

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Seniors taking part in an exercise class at the Hearthstone Room at Central Park(Photo/Forsyth County Senior Services)

(Forsyth County, GA) In the last several years, it may seem like more and more senior living neighborhoods are popping up around Forsyth County. From active adult communities to assisted living centers, it appears Forsyth County is becoming known for being a great place to retire.

The U.S. Census Bureau shows in the estimates survey from 2016-2020 the County had a total population of 236,605 people. Those ages 60 and over make up 16.7 percent of the total population, about 39,581 people.

The 2020 U.S. Census numbers show the Forsyth County population at 260,206 people, with 12.4 percent of them over age 65.

(Image/Forsyth County Senior Services)

According to SmartAsset, a financial help index, the City of Cumming is the best place to retire on the east coast, the second best city to retire in the whole country and the number one retirement city in the state of Georgia. SmartAsset ranked Cumming at the top of its lists because of the accessibility to quality health care, the abundance of recreation facilities, the numerous retirement communities, and the proximity to Lake Lanier and Atlanta.

Retirees have plenty of housing options in the area. Forsyth County is home to 16 senior living facilities, ranging from independent living communities to nursing homes to assisted living and memory care. Caring.com reports the average cost of assisted living in the County is $3,508 per month, which is slightly lower than the national average of $3,570.

For those who don’t need assistance, there are active adult communities geared for ages 55 and over. These neighborhoods usually feature tennis courts, pools, walking trails and gyms for those who want to live and play in the same place. The website 55 Places features 17 active adult communities in Forsyth County, with homes for sale in the $300,000 to $700,000 range.

So is Forsyth County an up-and-coming retirement destination? Not quite, according to Forsyth County Senior Services Director Ruthie Brew.

In my 5 ½ years of being in Forsyth County, not one older adult has told me they picked out Cumming as a place to retire,” Brew said. “That said, all seem happy here due to the lower cost of living (compared to other places), good weather, beautiful terrain and friendly people. We all love Forsyth County, but don’t view it as a retiree hot spot.”

Brew said she has found there are two main reasons why so many seem to be retiring in Forsyth County. The first reason being they move here midlife for work and stay after retirement. The second reason being their adult children live here so they relocate to be near them and their grandchildren.

Whatever the motive was for moving to Forsyth County, most retirees say there are plenty of great reasons to stay.

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Christine Farrier attended a seminar on Aging Mastery(Photo/Michelle Hall)

“One thing about Forsyth County that I like is the lower taxes. We lose the school bond off of your taxes when you reach 65. I’m very excited about that,” said Christine Farrier, who is semi-retired and in her early 60s. “You can go to any public college at age 62 for free. So I plan to take advantage of that and explore some of the classes. It’s an amazing benefit.”

Taxes and free college classes aren’t the only benefits keeping Farrier in Forsyth County.

“Another reason I came to Forsyth is I was able to find a one level ranch house here,” Farrier continued. “I’m finding that’s going to be a great plan for me as a solo ager so that I can stay in my home and hopefully age in place.”

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Bob and Donna Lusher taking the Aging Mastery class at Sexton Hall(Photo/Michelle Hall)

Bob and Donna Lusher, a retired married couple in their mid-60s, moved to Forsyth County in 2010 while their three children were in high school.

“Now that they’re through college we like it here so we are going to stay,” Bob Lusher said. “Our house is really bigger than what we need but we can age in place and make it so our first floor will be our main floor. So we’ll probably just stay in the neighborhood until they carry us out.”

Forsyth County Senior Services

Forsyth County is home to a multiple award-winning Senior Services Department. In April, it was awarded the ACCG Georgia County of Excellence Award for its innovative COVID-19 outreach programming, which helped older adults in Forsyth County find new ways to stay connected and enriched during the pandemic. Forsyth County is the only county in Georgia to receive the award.

’Yes, we are innovators,” Brew declared. “We are not satisfied with the status quo but always trying to find new and better ways to serve older adults.”

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Leaders with Forsyth County Senior Services holding the ACCG Georgia County of Excellence Award(Photo/Forsyth County Senior Services)

Forsyth County Senior Services offers programs to adults ages 50 and older, or as Brew put it, “50 and better.” There are three community centers that currently serve more than 1,500 seniors:

  • Sexton Hall (2115 Chloe Road, 30041)
    • Active adult life enrichment center
    • Art classes
    • Fitness classes
    • Day trips
    • Social groups
    • Community garden
    • Special events (concerts, dances, parties, guest speakers, etc.)
  • Charles Place (595 Dahlonega Street, 30040)
    • Traditional senior center
    • Focused on wellness
    • Funded with Older American Act nutrition grants (includes daily lunch and activities)
  • Hearthstone Room at Central Park (2300 Keith Bridge Road)
    • Focused on fitness
    • Exercise classes, hiking club, walking group
    • Daily card games
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Art class at Sexton Hall(Photo/Forsyth County Senior Services)

Seniors in Forsyth County can join any or all of the centers to stay active within the community. The department communicates events with its patrons through a weekly email, a bi-monthly newsletter, a Facebook page, flyers and online calendars. They also have guest speakers and networking groups to keep everyone informed.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1605280686505817?ref=newsfeed

“There’s a lot to do here if you’re a senior,” Bob said. “We started doing things right away with Forsyth County seniors. There were hikes where we all piled into a van and they would take us to a state park and we’ll walk around.”

“We’ve done a lot of senior trips like to the [Georgia] Aquarium and to the [Georgia state] Capitol building and Stone Mountain,” Donna added. “I don’t do things to the extent that Bob does but he’ll say things like ‘there’s a hike, why don’t we go on that?’ or like ‘are you interested in doing a trip here or there?’ and I’ll sign on board for that.”

Forsyth County Parks & Recreation

“Another good thing is Parks & Recreation, if you’re a senior it only costs $90 [a year] to use all the cardio machines so I go there every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and get my workout in,” said Bob.

So far this year, 2,090 people aged 55 and older have registered through the Department of Parks & Recreation.

“We offer inexpensive membership options for our residents to stay active and fit!” said Deputy Director Laura Pate. “In addition to joining the recreation building’s gym, seniors can register for a number of fitness classes, tennis, pickleball, badminton and dance. There are also art and special interest classes available during the day to the senior age group.

“Forsyth County has a large active senior population and we strive to offer fun and safe places they can come to socialize and stay active!“ Pate said.

Forsyth County Public Library

The Forsyth County Public Library system offers programs geared for seniors.

From art classes to book clubs to guest speakers, there are weekly events happening to keep seniors busy at all four library branches.

“I do that [classes] too through the library and they’re all free.They have those every month,” Donna said. “Post Road Library has classes where we were making jewelry and I made ‘sister’ bracelets for the three of us so that when we got together in Savannah we each had our sister bracelet on. So that was pretty cool.”

The library also has an outreach program for seniors where they take the books on the road to interact with residents at nursing homes and assisted living communities.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office

The Sheriff’s Office has a program in place to interact with seniors called S.A.L.T. - Seniors and Lawmen Together. Each month representatives from the Sheriff’s Office or the County meet to talk about different topics concerning safety for senior citizens.

“Our senior community can be vulnerable to scammers. Seniors tend to be more trusting and typically have a nest egg that scammers target," said Corporal Jenny Belafi of the Community Relations Unit. "S.A.L.T. provides the Sheriff’s Office an opportunity to talk with our seniors about the latest scams and to help them identify would be scams.  It gives us face-to-face time with our seniors allowing us to have that personal touch while keeping them safe.”  

This month’s topic is voting safety. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 18 at 10 a.m. at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge (248 Castleberry Industrial Drive, 30040).

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(Image/Forsyth County Sheriff's Office)

Helpful information for seniors

Forsyth County has put together a Senior Resource Guide to keep older adults informed about a variety of resources offered by the County and other groups.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County email michelle.hall@newsbreak.com

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Cumming, GA
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