Aquatic centers. Both Christiansburg and Blacksburg claim aquatic centers, with Christiansburg featuring a premier pool where high school and college level swim and dive meets are held. For retirees, of more interest might be the soothing exercise of water aerobics and a place to entertain grandchildren year-round.
Buildings pepper New River Valley streets with abundant churches and steeples representing many faith traditions. History in architecture is evident in downtown buildings, train depots, museums, houses and college campuses.
Cost of living is reasonable at only 2% above the national average (Forbes, 2016). The Climate is mild with summer temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and winter temps 20s and 30s. On average, the area receives 40 inches of rain and 23 inches of snow each year. All four seasons show their splendorous wonder in the New River Valley.
Downtowns have interesting restaurants, boutiques, specialty shops, vibrant art scenes, farmer’s markets for local artisans and producers to sell and a variety of fairs and festivals.
Environmentalism is important to NRVers, whether it is individuals purchasing shares in the Glade Road Growing CSA (community-supported agriculture), other CSAs or the Sustainable Blacksburg non-profit that hosts an educational Sustainability Week and other stewardship events.
Football is Fall’s biggest ticket [in a non-pandemic year]. Hokies descend on the town for tailgating, the iconic “Enter Sandman” entrance and the games. Oldsters gather together to watch games on TV and cheer their favorite teams. Fall colors are abundant, for a guide on Leaf Peeping, see page 32.
Geriatric support organizations create comfort in later years. There is home care from several assisted living places like Warm Hearth at Home. The Micah’s Soup for Seniors program brings food the last week of each month when money may be running low. Life enrichment opportunities include socializing, games, trips and education.
Housing runs the gamut with luxury apartments, condos, townhouses, homes with character, homes in planned neighborhoods, home with acreage and hobby farms. Several assisted living communities provide a continuum of care for seniors of all income levels.
Interstate 81 and Amtrak trains in Roanoke (with tentative plans for a stop in Christiansburg) make leisure travel and trips to see sights, friends and grandkids inexpensive and convenient.
Jobs in the high-tech Corporate Research Center, numerous national or worldwide manufacturers, and an innovative, entrepreneurial and collaborative business community offer senior citizens abundant opportunities for part-time, full-time and consulting work.
Kid-friendly activities are everywhere, whether a retired person’s kids or grandkids are middle-aged, young professionals, teens or wee ones. Many new NRV residents retire here because of their adult children. Social connections are the most important component to happiness (Gretchen Rubin, Happiness podcast) so it makes sense for family members to live in close proximity to one another.
Low crime rate. Blacksburg was the number one Safest City in Virginia for 2018 according to alarms.org and the National Council for Home Safety and Security. Other communities in the New River Valley also have high safety rankings.
Medical care is available at hospitals, ERs, doctor offices and urgent care centers throughout the New River Valley with more intensive treatments a short drive away in Salem or Roanoke.
Nature is a vital component of life here. At 2,000 feet above sea level along the Appalachian Mountain chain, gorgeous views, lush forests, open fields, flowers and unparalleled bucolic vistas fill the landscape.
Outdoor recreation activities include hiking, camping, walking, floating, boating, fishing, gardening, bird watching, picnicking, mushroom collecting, ziplining and much more. Outfitters offer all kinds of safe and fun adventures for all ages.
Population diversity includes a large national and global presence with international fairs, presentations, performances and restaurants. Regional heritage is treasured as well.
Quiet life is a big attraction for many seniors who have lived in bustling cities for most of their working careers and want a slower pace in their later years.
Retail establishments range from the eclectic shops and chain stores to locally-owned, well-known franchises. Most everything needed can be bought locally.
Small-town atmosphere is the only atmosphere in the NRV. Senior folks often say going to the grocery store can take an hour or more for running into friends or meeting new people who want to stop and chat.
Transportation includes public transit, Smart Way bus, Uber, Hooptie Ride and special senior transport upon approval and appointment. Parking is abundant everywhere with handicapped spaces in easily accessible places.
Universities and New River Community College offer myriad educational and cultural opportunities, such as the Moss Arts Center and the Radford University planetarium, a permanent planetarium with a 10-meter dome which is free to attendees.
Volunteer opportunities in the New River Valley are numerous because of the service-oriented vibes found here. Whether you want to help shoppers at the Montgomery County Christmas Store, tutor school-aged children, help at the hospital or sit on a non-profit board, there is a place for you.
Wineries dot the New River Valley and Walking trails abound, some paved, some dirt, some level, some hilly, all beautiful in every season.
X-tra learning prospects proliferate. The Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech provides intellectual, cultural and social experiences for curious adults 50 and older. Virginia Master Naturalists have an NRV chapter, and Master Gardeners are active. The YMCA at Virginia Tech hosts international programs promoting English conversation.
Young people help elders’ spirits remain playful, pliable and healthy. Youngsters can introduce seniors to what is new, what can be changed and what needs rethinking.
Zest for life among senior citizens is apparent throughout the New River Valley. The area has so much that can support a happy old age, and retirees can savor this stage of their lives.
Text by Jennifer Poff Cooper