Opinion Columns & Blogs

Who wants to live in Macon? Well, folks who like these kind of wonderful things

Motorists driving to Atlanta can’t help but smile when they pass the billboard urging them to retire in Macon. Yes, it’s an idea that deserves some attention, although I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, several years ago when my mother decided to move south, I poo-pooed the idea.

While the sign near the Barnesville exit appears to be sponsored by Navicent Health and proclaims the virtues of Carlyle Place, it indirectly calls to mind several of Macon’s assets that residents — especially long-time residents —frequently overlook.

For one thing, Macon is loaded with cultural resources and educational opportunities, and with the institutions of higher learning come a multitude of offerings that appeal to people who finally have the leisure to pursue the interests pushed aside in their younger years.

Macon is also home to several hospitals, including a Level I Trauma Center. This resource is important to everyone, but especially to those facing the problems of old age. With a major Air Force installation in nearby Warner Robins, the area is also attractive to retirees from the military.

Another positive feature is climate. A few years ago, Macon could expect a snowfall or two each winter, but this has not been the case recently. While I miss the beauty of the white stuff, I also know that it has been a long time since I’ve had to wrestle a set of chains onto a car.

It should be pointed out, too, that Mercedes Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena are just 70 miles or so up the road, as are Zoo Atlanta, High Museum and Center for Civil and Human Rights. While many abhor Atlanta’s traffic, these attractions are great options for entertaining out-of-town visitors, especially grandchildren.

Earlier I mentioned the cost of housing, and that necessity is another area where Macon shines. Our family leases a two-bedroom apartment in downtown Atlanta for our kids who are in college there, but the same unit would cost dramatically less in Macon.

One realm where we cannot boast concerns crime. Directly connected to this are the problems of blight. While deteriorating properties are a problem in many cities, the Macon-Bibb County commissioners seem to be singularly inept at confronting the problem. While that’s bad news, it must be acknowledged that the historic downtown area and the neighborhood around Mercer University are achieving remarkable progress.

Indeed, it would be a wonderful if there were more retirement housing around Mercer, for that institution offers a vast array of life-enriching events. In addition to Division I intercollegiate sports, there are lectures with considerable intellectual heft, theater performances, art galleries and a line-up of concerts that can boggle the mind. The Townsend School of Music presents over 80 performances per year by high-level talent, and most of these are free. The other colleges also offer programs for seniors.

Another item that bolsters Macon’s case is the Washington Memorial Library, the flagship of the local system. Renowned for its genealogy and archival collections, this jewel is supported by the Friends of the Library. When my mother first announced her determination to move south, I immediately purchased her a Friends membership, and in no time she felt right at home, proclaiming that Macon was indeed a wonderful place.

Navicent Health may be beating the drum for Carlyle Place, but its ads promote a much larger issue. With the exceptions noted, Macon is indeed an ideal spot in which to retire. Spread the news.

P.S. I’d never admit it to her, but once again my mother was right.

Larry Fennelly is a local educator.