Pelham-- There are more than 32 million retirees in the United States today and the number is growing. A South Georgia city will spend the next few years developing a plan to attract some of those retirees. That potential destination might surprise you. It's the small town of Pelham.
When you think of retirement living, you may think of Florida, even some other parts of Georgia. But Pelham? City leaders there say it's possible. And once you set foot there, you can see those possibilities.
Welcome to Pelham, Georgia. The sign greets you on Highway 19, touting a special place. But is it truly special? Jewel Bowen says yes.
"The people here. They're all so friendly and nice," said Bowen. To her, it's a gem of a city.
"If you ever come down here, you'd want to stay," said Bowen. Sadly, a town she's called home for six decades could soon just be a memory.
"I've raised two children in this house and my husband died and I'm alone and the house is just too big for me and I need something smaller," said Bowen. If she could stay, she would. The problem is in this small city there's nowhere for her to make a new start.
"They want to sell their house. They want to move on but they don't want to leave town but they have to because there's no other option," said Pelham Mayor Steven Turner.
That's why the Pelham Depot was turned into an idea pot. The eager hands of citizens go up in the air to give input on making Pelham a destination for retirees. Chamber of Commerce President Lorenda Smith says seniors are no longer just wheelchair and nursing home bound.
"They are wanting to walk tracks. They are playing tennis. I have 70-year-olds that are swimming laps," said Smith. Right now they're answering questions. The first, why is Pelham desirable? 'Because it's home' goes at the top of list but city leaders say much more is needed to make it attractive to others. They now have a long list to work from.
"We'll take these ideas. We will compile them and come up with a list of desires and then we'll actually begin to talk to some contractors," said Smith. Retirees like Billy Davis can already picture it.
"I can just see having a place over there to go fishing in the afternoon, go to the clubhouse," said Davis. However, Jewel Bowen may have to just hear about it from her friends.
"Which I hate to do but the time comes when you have to make a change," said Bowen. She's sure she'll come back to her small city with it's big changes. Whether it's for the Pelham Country Jamboree or to call a special place home again.
City leaders say Pelham is also desirable because it's a central location to places like Albany, Thomasville and Moultrie and it's not too far from Tallahassee.