In the late 1980s, Dennis and Mary Young decided to retire early from their careers in Texas. The couple knew they wanted to relocate to Colorado – they just weren’t exactly sure where.
The Youngs eventually discovered Grand Junction, which provided not only ample new opportunities to explore but offered jobs as well – pulling them back into the work environment for another 15 years. Dennis found a rewarding job with Barnes & Noble, while Mary worked at local television station KJCT in the human resources department. “We were so glad we quit work at 55, then worked [here] until we were 70,” Dennis says. “It helped us get to know so many different people.”
By 2012, it was time to retire for good. However, the Youngs were far from settling.
At age 66, both Mary and Dennis took up marathon running and everything escalated from there. The couple were already outdoor enthusiasts with a passion for hiking Colorado’s fourteeners, yet competitive long-distance running offered something new – an opportunity to not only maintain a healthy lifestyle but also fellowship with other runners, both young and old.
The Youngs compete in at least five marathons every year, with a goal to finish one in every state by age 82. “Running is motivating and the part that motivates you is you just feel better,” Mary says. “The days we start with an early run, it just picks you up and gets you going. It does something with your energy level. You appreciate feeling that way. It’s really one of the true benefits.”
Despite all the wonderful places where they have lived (Dennis served in the U.S. Navy before working as an engineer in Texas) and all the locations they have visited as long-distance runners, the Grand Valley is the couple’s final and favorite destination.
“You are in a central place here,” Dennis said. “That’s one of the great things about the Grand Valley. There’s so much you can do within a few states from you. We lived in all of it – from Florida to South Carolina to New London. All of the West Coast. We’ve experienced a lot. When you can look at all that and stay in one place, it’s hard to beat Grand Junction.”
While not every retired couple may have the good fortune of great health or the drive to run long-distance, the Grand Valley is one of the most rewarding places in the western United States for retirees who seek to maintain an active lifestyle. With mild temperatures year-round, there is no shortage of recreational opportunities as well as a unique, thriving downtown area, highly rated dining options, and world-renowned locally produced wine, as well as fresh, locally grown produce. Plus, there’s a riverfront trail system that spans the Grand Valley.
The valley is also home to three major hospitals including St. Mary’s Medical Center, Community Hospital and Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center. Plus, the Grand Junction Veterans Administration Medical Center serves military veterans from western Colorado, southeastern Utah, and the southwest corner of Wyoming. The valley is also lucky to have light motorized traffic and numerous tight-knit church communities. Quality of life is highly desired by retirees and something the Youngs are quick to point out when highlighting the valley’s appeal.
“I remember when we came out here for the first time. A realtor was showing us around and he said the big thing everyone likes in this town is that you can ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon,” Mary says, with a laugh. “When people come to visit you don’t just take them to the mall,” Dennis added. “You take them to the Colorado National Monument. You take them up to the Grand Mesa. There is such varied environment – snow on the mountain and desert and red rock.”