Why folks retire in Kingman?
Economy, politics, and long summers offer a peaceful existence
KINGMAN – Rankings of favorite retirement destinations are dominated by Arizona and Florida. The Phoenix metro area was a recent commercial study runaway favorite, but Kingman-Lake Havasu City was ranked high as well.
“Ninety percent of people we meet here are not from here,” said Bob Sells, who moved to Kingman from Oregon in April 2018 with his wife of 36 years, Linda. “The majority of retirees come from California. They leave because California is very liberal and very expensive.”
Other seniors come here to spend the winters only, escaping the cold of Nebraska and the Dakotas. Many have family here and, while visiting, get hooked on long summers, mild winters, and natural beauty. During World War II, the town was the site of one of the Army Air Forces’ largest training fields with 35,000 aviators and soldiers being processed through Kingman. Many of them chose to retire in the area.
Kingman is an ideal base because of the hunting, hiking and fishing options around, and for seniors – national parks are free. There are as many as 10 assisted living facilities in town, some of them small and cozy. The quality of health care, especially mental services, seemed to be an issue in the past, but so far the Sells evaluate Kingman Regional Medical Center as “excellent.”
“My wife had kidney stones,” Sells said, “and they handled it beautifully.”
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Kingman’s retirement-age population at 6,072, or 21.2% of the total population in 2014.
“People are trying to get out of big cities,” said Debera Daugherty, the Executive Director of the Kathryn Heidenreich Adult Center, which organizes events and activities for seniors. “And they like the small town atmosphere.”
Before they retired, the Sells had been to Kingman twice on a Route 66 road trip and liked it a lot. When they started to consider a place to retire, Kingman popped up as an option.
“Oregon is beautiful but it rains,” Sells said. “It’s gorgeous, but there are too many gray days there. You can grow any type of mold anywhere you want.”
But weather was a secondary reason for why they moved out of Oregon, leaving their adult children and grandchildren behind. The cost of living is the most important when you have a fixed income.
“I had an acre in Oregon, a three-bedroom place, for which I paid $3,600 in property taxes,” Sells said. “Now I pay $600.”
The Sells have found both Kingman and locals accommodating. They like it here. Relatives don’t mind coming, too, with Las Vegas 1.5 hours and Phoenix three hours away. Everyone wants to visit the Grand Canyon and flights to and from Vegas are easy.
There is still little shopping, Sells admits. “Kingman was economically behind in the ’80s, but I think it is catching up.”