Artsy, Cosmopolitan Bend, Oregon is Nestled Amid Breathtaking Scenery and Beckons to Retirees Seeking an Active, Healthy Lifestyle
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Beautiful Bend (population 88,000) is in scenic central Oregon, east of the Cascade Mountain Range and along the Deschutes River where the Great Basin high desert meets a towering pine forest. Founded as a logging town in 1905, today this is an artsy, sophisticated mountain metropolis. It is a gateway to popular, awe-inspiring outdoor recreation areas where "Bendites" partake in everything from rafting and skiing to camping and bicycling. Bend has also gained a reputation as a cultural hub for central Oregon and has grown by 325% in the last decade or two. Tourists, families, professionals, small business owners and retirees are all drawn here.
The city's quality of life and remote location contribute to a cost of living 32% above the national average, but as the locals say, "If you visit Bend, you will stay in Bend." Residents lean to the right politically, and 35% of the locals are age 45 or better. Forty percent have at least a four year college degree. Racial diversity is minimal. The crime rate is well below the national average.
The median home price is $410,000. Neighborhoods are well-maintained and sprinkled with pine trees. Housing stock includes chalets, cabins, Craftsmans, bungalows, raised ranch ramblers, condos, town homes, riverfront properties and 20-acre ranches. Generally speaking, the west side of the city is more upscale than the east side. Pilot Butte Village is a cozy, wooded 55+ community.
Unfortunately, Oregon is not a tax-friendly state. Social Security is not taxed, but other retirement income, except Railroad Retirement income, is taxed. Federal retirees, including military personnel, may, however, be able to subtract some or all of their federal pension income. Depending on income, some retirees may be entitled to a 9% tax credit. Residents may also deduct up to $6,250 in federal income taxes from their Oregon tax return. The state does not offer a homestead exemption, but residents age 62 or better may defer property taxes if their annual income is less than $43,000. The annual taxes on a $410,000 home are roughly $4,000. Oregon has no sales tax, and personal income tax rates range from 5% to 9.9%.
Bendites can never complain of not having enough to do. More than two million acres of public lands are within an hour's drive of the city, and the Deschutes River runs through many of them. Whether skiing down Mount Bachelor, hiking in the Cascades, rafting on the Deschutes or just enjoying the solitude of one of four nearby national forests, Bendites worship the outdoors and revel in a healthy lifestyle. In particular, this area is a cyclist's dream, and world-class fly fishing brings in anglers from around the region. Within city limits alone, there are 48 miles of walking and bicycling trails and 71 parks, including Drake Park, a soothing green oasis along the river. For the less athletically inclined, the Cascade Lakes Highway is a great way to view the Cascades, majestic Mt. Bachelor and sparkling lakes via automobile.
Although the outdoor adventure lifestyle is king here, Bendites also enjoy a rich menu of cultural events, including wine tastings and festivals such as the acclaimed Bend Film Festival, now in its 13th year. Central Oregon Symphony is comprised of volunteers and presents a robust performance schedule. First Friday Art Walks each month and free summer concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater are always popular. The BMC Cascade Cycling Classic, WinterFest and Balloons Over Bend attract sizable crowds.
Another of Bend's highlights is its compact, eclectic downtown, home to art galleries, swanky restaurants, dinner clubs, trendy retailers, bookstores, day spas, cafes, boutiques, the historic Tower Theatre and the "eco-chic" Oxford Hotel. The Old Mill District is appealing, too. This 270-acre mixed use development, on the site of an old sawmill, boasts shops, restaurants, housing, a 96-room inn and some breathtaking views of the Cascades. Cascade Village Shopping Center boasts Best Buy and Trader Joe's, while the Bend River Promenade has Macy's and TJ Maxx. Bend is also proud of its five microbreweries. Nothing is better than sipping a cool brew at an outdoor cafe along the river after a hard day of hiking or fishing.
The city has a definite bent toward "green" practices, making it easy to find environmentally-friendly merchants. There are numerous small groceries with locally grown food, and the Bend Farmers' Market is a hoppin' place. And while not "green," Walmart has a presence here, too.
Bend's library, the Deschutes Public Library, has a bookmobile, public computers with Internet access and a program called Second Sunday, in which regional writers and poets read from their works. Oregon State University also has a small Bend campus (550 students)
Saint Charles Medical Center (250 beds) is a Level II trauma center is award-winning for clinical excellence, patient safety, women's healthcare and emergency medicine. Seventy-three percent of patients would recommend it to a friend, which is higher than the national average. It is also accredited by the Joint Commission and accepts Medicare patients. For military retirees, Bend has a VA outpatient clinic, but the closest VA hospital is 210 miles away in Roseburg, Oregon.
Cascade Area Transit provides limited fixed route bus service, and there is a call ahead Dial-a-Ride service. Roberts Field Airport is serviced by United, Delta and American. Bend sits along US Highway 97, a primary north/south route, and along State Highway 20, a major east/west road. The Pacific Ocean is five hours to the west.
The Bend Senior Center is managed by the Parks and Recreation Department and has classes, lunches, blood pressure clinics, trips, holiday parties and more.
People tend to think of Oregon as rainy and wet, but Bend sits at 3,630 feet above sea level and is protected by the Cascades. On average, the city receives just 11 inches of rain and 32 inches of snow per year (the surrounding volcanic mountains receive much more of the white stuff). Summer temperatures are in the 60s, 70s and low 80s (and nights are cool). Winter temperatures are in the 20s, 30s and 40s. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Bend comes in well above the national average. The sun shines 175 days of the year, and the water and air quality are both above the national averages. Sunsets over the Cascades are spectacular.
There are a few drawbacks to a Bend retirement. Tourists, many seeking outdoor thrills, flock here year round (but primarily during the summer months). Even though the city sits along two well-maintained highways, it can feel isolated. The rapid growth has put a strain on some local services and urban sprawl is an issue. Long time residents occasionally grumble that their pretty town has been "discovered." Others say that the city is pretentious.
Despite the downsides, Bend beckons and has garnered national attention for its cosmopolitan ambiance, dramatic scenery and healthy quality of life. It is a vibrant city, a place where one can ski in the morning, golf in the afternoon and attend a symphony in the evening. For many a retiree, it does not get much better than Bend.
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