Published February 2009
By Jahna Jacobson
Joe and Anne Hann traveled across the continent before settling on their favorite place to spend their retirement – the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“We went everywhere from Corpus Christi to Tampa and all along the Gulf and checked the various locations, the cost of living, the people, the climate,” said Joe Hann, a retired operations manager from Wisconsin via Alabama. “We like it best here.”
And they are not alone. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is nationally known as a top spot for retirees. Only there can you live in a charming, historic downtown literally minutes away from some of the country’s most luxurious casinos and big-name entertainment.
“There is no place I would rather be,” said Marcia Crawford, director of information and retiree attraction with the Harrison County Development Commission.
“When my husband was getting ready to retire in the summer of 2004, we looked all over the country: Portland, Oregon; Connecticut; Hawaii; Nevada – we did our homework,” Crawford said. “I really believe that this area combines the best of all areas.”
The Mississippi Gulf Coast has been named a Mississippi Certified Retirement City. To qualify, each town is evaluated by Hometown Mississippi Retirement for affordable cost of living, low taxes, low crime rate, quality medical care, recreation, educational and cultural opportunities and being a welcoming community.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast area is also highly ranked in David Savageau’s Retirement Places Rated and was named one of “The 50 Best Places to Live” by Modern Maturity.
Several individual communities are dotted along 26 miles of nationally ranked white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, each with its own personality.
“We enjoy the people very friendly here,” she said. “No matter where you come from, you are accepted by the people who have lived here all their lives.”
U.S. Census Bureau estimates as of July 2007 the population of the Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula area at about 383,558. The pre-Katrina number for the area was 412,382.
Real Estate Affordability
Part of the area’s appeal is that the Mississippi Gulf Coast has one of the most affordable urban housing markets in the South. The area also offers a generous homestead exemption for persons over 65.
“The cost of living is low,” said Joe Hann. “And there is a great mix of people from all over the country.”
According to Sperling’s Best Places, the Gulfport-Biloxi metro area cost of living is 15.58% lower than the U.S. average.
Health Care Options
Seniors and retired military can receive medical care at the area’s 10 hospitals, including Keesler AFB Medical Center and VA, the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System and civilian’s Biloxi Regional Medical Center and Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.
There is no tax on qualified retirement income, including Social Security.
Mild weather means residents enjoy sports, festivals, parades, special events and golf year round. The Mississippi Gulf Coast has more than 20 golf courses designed for a variety of skill levels. The family-friendly Mardi Gras celebrations are one of the area’s biggest festival draws.
Gaming was legalized in 1992 and provides a bevy of recreational possibilities.
“We have the casinos, and excellent restaurants in the casinos, and they bring in a lot of shows,” she said. “Between the casinos and our coliseum, we see almost anything any big city has even though we are a smaller community.”
There are plenty of fresh and saltwater activities, including fishing and boating.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast has many opportunities for continuing education, including Tulane University, University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Community continuing education classes and the Lifelong Learning Institute.
The Haans have enjoyed taking classes at the local universities and colleges.
“Many of the courses you can audit, which costs little or no money,” said Anne Haan. “Or you can get a degree — you do have that, too!”
The Mississippi Gulf Coast offers many employment and volunteer opportunities for seniors. The growth along the Gulf Coast and the continued rebuilding and development following Hurricane Katrina have somewhat insulated the area against the economic slump, which means more possibilities for retirees.
Local communities offer a rich variety of cultural experiences, from community theater productions and historical reenactments to the world-renowned Walter Andersen Museum and Shearwater pottery studio in Ocean Springs.
If you are looking for a change of place or pace, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is located midway between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala. The area is also home to the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, which makes traveling anywhere in the world a short drive away.
Many of the small towns along the coast are known for their arts and antiques, which means a unique shopping experience from one community to the next.
The casinos are home to world-class boutiques. Residents will also find malls, shopping centers, outlets, boutiques, specialty stores and military shopping
Sense of Place
The long and unique history of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, combined with its blend of old Southern charm and big-city entertainment and shopping, mean there is no place else quite like it. Traveling from one world to another can be as simple as crossing a bridge, and the world is at your fingertips.