Retiring in Natchez: Natchez picked as top retirement community

Published 12:04 am Sunday, September 6, 2015

Richard, left, and Jo Douglas moved to Natchez nearly a year ago from Hanover, Pa. Jo still works, but Richard is retired. It was the small town feel that attracted them to Natchez. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Richard, left, and Jo Douglas moved to Natchez nearly a year ago from Hanover, Pa. Jo still works, but Richard is retired. It was the small town feel that attracted them to Natchez. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Retirement. The word conjures up images of long, leisurely days spent without worry.

For some, that image may include a cool drink in hand while watching waves crash on a secluded beach. For others, that image might be as simple as qualifying for the senior discount at a favorite restaurant.

For Richard Douglas, retirement meant a small Southern getaway overlooking the Mississippi River — Natchez.

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“The small town feel, that’s what attracted us,” said Douglas, who moved to Natchez from Hanover, Pa., with his wife nearly a year ago.

After living in the Northeast, and before that in Lafayette, La., Douglas said he was looking for a slower pace of life.

Natchez fit the bill, he said.

“For me, just the sheer beauty of the homes and the town itself are really inspiring,” Douglas, said. “There is something special about seeing that every day.”

Statistics from SmartAsset, a finance technology company headquartered in New York, show approximately 18.4 percent of Natchez’s population is made up of senior citizens — or people who are 55 and older.

Since 1997, Natchez has been a certified retirement city, which means it meets a long list of criteria retirees seek when moving — such as quality health care, a large number of senior citizens living in the area, recreation opportunities and low local and state tax rates.

Using those criteria, SmartAsset ranked Natchez No. 5 out of the top 10 places to retire in Mississippi.

“Most senior citizens have time on their hands, so they’re drawn to places that have recreation and entertainment opportunities,” said A.J. Smith, managing editor and vice president of content for SmartAsset. “They also want other senior citizens to do those activities with.”

Mississippi has 15 certified retirement cities, including Natchez.

Natchez Retiree Partnership Director Clark Feiser said enticing a retiree to relocate to the Bluff City is not difficult.“It’s sort of like attracting a business,” said Feiser, who realized Natchez was his final destination after taking a ride with his wife on the Delta Queen in 1991. “You have to sell someone on the area. Then, it might take three or four years until they actually move here.”

Feiser said he could currently identify 275 households that represent retirees who moved to Natchez because of what it offers the senior citizen population.

Those are just people who moved to Natchez through the partnership, though.

Feiser said he expects that number to be much greater.

The Benefits

For Douglas, a big draw for retiring in Natchez was the low cost of living.

While in Pennsylvania, Douglas said he and his wife paid approximately $4,000 in property taxes annually.

Now living in Natchez, the couple pays approximately $500 a year.

“When you get older, that makes a huge difference,” Douglas said.

Residents age 65 and older in Mississippi are also exempt from taxes on the first $75,000 of true value on their house through homestead exemption laws.

When you consider the low housing rates in Natchez, Feiser said that exemption is significant.

“A lot of people also like to settle down here because their retirement income isn’t taxed,” Feiser said. “Not all states offer that.”

Once retirees relocate to Natchez, Feiser said the partnership aids in making sure they settle in to the community comfortably.

Whether that adjustment period includes joining an organization or figuring out when trash pickup day is, Feiser said the partnership is there, ready to help.

“I’m helping one resident find a plumber right now,” Feiser said. “She bought an older house downtown, so there is something going wrong every minute.”

Being greeted with open arms, Douglas said, is just one of the many reasons why Natchez is an ideal place to retire.

“We thought a small town might be cliquey, but we found the exact opposite,” said Douglas, who claims he was an introvert before moving to the Miss-Lou. “We’ve already joined four or five organizations.”

Auburn Antebellum Home, the Natchez Music and Arts League, the Natchez Historic Foundation and newcomers group for retirees are just a few activities that frequent the Douglas’ calendar.

And while Natchez boasts a big list of benefits for retirees, Feiser said one reoccurring drawback he has encountered while trying to sell folks on the area does stand out.

“Right now, we don’t have any neighborhoods with newer housing and low maintenance,” Feiser said. “We have tons of homes, but a lot of retirees don’t want yards. They don’t want the upkeep.”

Feiser said recent development off Winchester Road has served as an incentive with enticing retirees to relocate.

The development, tentatively named Ashburn Woods, might offer up to 66 townhomes and patio homes within a gated community.

“I’ve lost a few couples over the years to lack of that type of housing,” Feiser said. “Hopefully this will help us out some.”

The Future

While Natchez rises on the retiree radar, (Condé Nast recently ranked Natchez as one of the friendliest cities and one of the best small cities in America) Feiser said he is more than ready to welcome more senior citizens looking to slow down — or, in his case — speed up.

“I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t like to sit down,” Feiser said, who along with leading the partnership is the president of Auburn Antebellum Home and volunteers at the Stewpot. “Natchez can be whatever you want it to be — busy or leisurely.”

For more information on what Natchez offers senior citizens, visit