4 Great Places to Retire: For the lifetime learner -- College towns

June 1, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

Athens, Georgia

Population: 116,714

Median home price: $116,000, down 34% from the market peak

In Athens, retirement is just another excuse to continue the learning process. Retirees have been flocking here for some time, drawn to a cost of living below the national average, low home prices, and a myriad of cultural offerings, thanks to the University of Georgia (below). The Athens Community Council on Aging expects its over-65 population to more than double by 2030.

Like most college towns, the university is the main draw, but another is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a senior educational group affiliated with the university that links retirees with current and former professors for lectures, courses, and even trips -- this fall a retired geology professor is taking a group to the Canadian Rockies. The university itself, meanwhile, will let anyone over 62 audit classes free. Retirees can also volunteer as greeters or ushers at the performing arts center.

Homes here run the gamut from $100,000 starters to million-dollar-plus mansions. Carol Williams, a broker with Coldwell Banker, says homes priced around $500,000 or higher have been sitting on the market a bit longer than others, so you can often find bargains.

For Randall and Carolyn Abney, the educational opportunities were irresistible. The couple were living outside Florence, Italy, but realized the weak dollar was cutting into their income. In July 2008 they left Italy behind and moved to a three-story condo just outside Athens. "We're not ready to quit taking classes; it's one of the things we really enjoy," says Randall, 65. A graduate of Georgia's business school, the former tech entrepreneur has made himself available to students as a mentor. Carolyn, 62, is keeping her Italian up and just started taking piano lessons from a graduate student in the music program. "I don't think we could have hit the mark any better than this," says Randall.

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San Luis Obispo, Calif. The local university, California Polytechnic State, has some of the top-ranked engineering and architecture programs in the country. It's also conveniently located between the ocean and wine country.

Madison, Wis. Home to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the town is surrounded by lakes and has miles of bike trails. Home prices are stable -- the median price is down just 9% from the peak.

4 GREAT PLACE TO RETIRE
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