The Bucket List, Hill Country-Style

By Kevin Thompson


The “bucket list” approach to retirement often fails to really satisfy, says Miami psychiatrist Marc Agronin. He had a client who traveled the globe for pleasure but couldn’t shake a nagging depression. “She felt like a spectator to the lives and locales of others, collecting hundreds of photos that were destined to sit unseen on flash drives,” Dr. Agronin wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal. “The solution? She and her husband are now spending more time with family and friends, and feel much happier and more connected.”

Thousands of retirees land in Texas each year seeking satisfaction from their golden years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only California and Florida have more residents over 65. Only California has more adults aged 45 to 64.

Locally, Kendall County’s growth rate among people over 60 has outpaced its overall growth by more than 12 percent. The county’s general population has increased 14 percent in the last five years. Its over-60 crowd has grown 26 percent, Census data show.

Cordillera Ranch has helped the trend. Forty percent of Cordillera residents are retirees with an average age of 54, according to Director of Membership Debbie Pepper.

If recent migration trends continue, the Texas State Data Center projects Kendall County’s over-60 population to more than double in the next twenty years, from about 10,000 to roughly 25,000.

Texas draws retirees because of its relatively low cost of living, very low state income tax (as in 0 percent), mild climate and central location.

Even a former editor of Where to Retire magazine began her “post-career life” in the Texas Hill Country recently, after twenty-plus years researching retirement destinations. “I liked the character of the town (Fredericksburg) with its German heritage,” Mary Lu Abbott told her former magazine. “I enjoy the beauty of the area and the big open skies.”

The March/April edition of Where to Retire highlighted both Boerne and Cordillera Ranch in its Texas Hill Country feature. The Hill Country’s special blend of nature and culture certainly give a reporter ample content to cover.

As for nature, peaceful waters slide past majestic Cypresses along the Cibolo and the Guadalupe. Hikers hear faint calls of civilizations past in the howling winds of Enchanted Rock. Dozens of state and local parks make easy day trips.

It was nature that lured retired heart surgeon Ridlon Kiphart to Cordillera Ranch from Dallas in 2001. “The Hill Country is varied and sometimes harsh, sometimes stark but beautiful in the rain, in the sun, in the moonlight and in the starlight,” Kiphart waxed poetic. “The diversity of flora and fauna is amazing. The solitude, serenity and peacefulness are awe-inspiring.”

Kiphart once witnessed twenty-four different species of birds in his backyard within a forty-eight hour period. He records data for a migration study at Cornell University. “Sitting on the back porch in a rocker, I can watch my world go by, ever amazed at the new sights that fly by, float by, flutter by or sprout out of the soil.”

As for culture, world-class wineries pepper the region. The Texas Hill Country is now the second-most visited wine region in the country. Wine Enthusiast magazine named it a Top 10 Wine Destination worldwide (we were sandwiched between the Aegean Islands and Mendoza, Argentina).

Boerne’s proximity to San Antonio mixes in cosmopolitan options. Whether a sought-after exhibit at the Witte or Broadway at the Majestic, the festive heart of America’s seventh largest city beats less than an hour away.

World-class health care, shopping and dining are even closer. The University of Texas Health Science Center anchors an array of specialists on San Antonio’s northwest side.

The swanky Shops at La Cantera bring a world of goods and tastes within twenty minutes’ reach. Fifteen minutes farther, San Antonio International makes distant family and friends close again.

Big city amenities with small-town connections — that’s what most people seem to want for their final years. A town like Boerne harkens back to Mayberry despite the “Boerne, Texas Gone Forever” bumper stickers popping up.

Insurance executive and Amarillo native Mike Brewer wanted to come home to Texas after nearly 40 years in Kansas City. He and wife Lynne have family in Florida, Georgia and Missouri.

“We visited Cordillera and it was love at first sight.” Brewer said. “We’ve made wonderful friends here and love the amenities. It’s a great spot for family get-togethers. Our children and grandchildren love to play golf, tube the river and lounge by the pool.”

Throw in skeet shooting, horse riding and a tennis match and that’s a bucket list, Cordillera-style.

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