Originally created 06/05/06

Nice place to retire



NORTH AUGUSTA -Boxes were stacked up throughout the new home of Mitch and Debra Perdue last week.

Mrs. Perdue, taking a break from unpacking boxes, said she hopes this move will be their last.

The retired couple, high school sweethearts who grew up in Newberry, S.C., originally moved to Bluffton, S.C., to spend their retirement years. They lasted 13 months.

"We couldn't take the traffic any more," Mrs. Perdue said. "I love the Lowcountry. It's gorgeous, but it (the traffic) was just unbelievable."

Because Mr. Perdue has received treatment at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics and the Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, they were familiar with the area.

However, the proximity of the hospitals was not the only reason they settled in North Augusta.

The city is near their two daughters: one, a Clemson University senior, and the other, a teacher who lives in Savannah, Ga., with her husband and two children. The inland community also is farther from the constant threat of hurricanes along the coast.

"I love small towns, and it looks like North Augusta is a nice little area," Mrs. Perdue said.

Wade Adler, the director of marketing for Mount Vintage Plantation & Golf Club, said many retirees, who make up about 75 percent of the subdivision's residents, come to North Augusta for the lifestyle.

"The biggest thing they're looking for is a sense of community, a sense of belonging," he said.

Mount Vintage, six miles from U.S. Highway 25, is a 1,500-acre community of more than 200 residential and patio homes and sporting amenities such as golf, tennis and equestrian activities.

Mr. Adler said Mount Vintage markets itself heavily to people of retirement age in the Northeast, Midwest and, most recently, California.

"Historically, those are markets that are people that are retired with assets to purchase an additional piece of property or a retirement home," Mr. Adler said.

He also said the community is starting to see an influx of retirees who relocated to Florida but are moving again because of overcrowding, insurance costs and hurricanes.

"They're not originally from this area, but they've vacationed to this area. They've been here on golf packages," he said.

A number of former Floridians also have settled in Andrew's Branch, a subdivision near U.S. 25.

Pat Sisson moved to this neighborhood from Florida in November.

She and her husband, Manuel, sold their longtime home in Sarasota last year to build a house in an Ocala, Fla., golf community. A month before their move, her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and they canceled their plans for Ocala.

Mrs. Sisson said her late husband, an avid golfer and a construction manager who made frequent business trips to Augusta, decided they should move to North Augusta.

"I just wanted to get out of Florida because of the hurricanes. ... He wanted to see me settled before he died," Mrs. Sisson said.

She looked at 29 houses in three days in Richmond and Columbia counties and settled on the one house she looked at in North Augusta. She said she wanted a new house that would need few repairs.

In addition, she said, "It was quiet. I didn't like the traffic in Evans."

Her husband died in February.

"The people here were wonderful. I didn't know anybody. All these Southern neighbors brought in food when he died," she said.

Dan and Judy Lisak moved to Andrew's Branch about a month ago after living in Casselberry, Fla., for two years.

"We were looking for another house for a number of reasons. We prefer something a little less hectic. The growth there is unbelievable," Mr. Lisak said.

He also said they were persuaded to pack their bags after surviving the "Big Four" hurricanes - Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne - in 2004.

The Lisaks, longtime Illinois residents, originally retired to Kissimmee, Fla., in 2000.

"This area kind of came up by accident. We had been to the Carolinas (while traveling) back and forth," Mr. Lisak said.

His wife said she started looking at South Carolina cities on a map and on the Internet, and they initially considered moving to Aiken.

"This looked like the largest area along this side of the state," she said.

However, after Mr. Lisak and her parents, who also live in Florida, visited the area in February, they decided to move to North Augusta.

"It was closer to the hospitals" in Augusta, Mr. Lisak said.

In addition, he said, he liked the slower pace, cultural amenities and trails in North Augusta.

"I think this is a natural area for people to consider for retirement," Mr. Lisak said.

They soon will have another reason for feeling at home.

Mrs. Lisak's parents and one of her two sisters plan to move from Florida to North Augusta as well.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.

SENIOR SHUFFLE


According to a December study of U.S. residents 65 and older:


- 4 percent of these 34.2 million people moved in 2003.


- 49.1 percent of those who moved relocated within the same county.


- 23.3 percent moved between counties in the same state.


- 25.4 percent moved to a different state.


- 22.1 percent moved for family reasons other than a change in marital status or to establish their own households.


- 14.4 percent moved for health reasons.