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Report says Minnesotans should head north to retire. But should they?

Turns out, there are some serious pros and cons when it comes to retiring on the North Shore.

Turns out, there are some serious pros and cons when it comes to retiring on the North Shore. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Right now, an estimated 10,000 baby boomers nationwide are retiring every day.

If they’re looking to make a home in Minnesota, a recent report has determined the exact place they should settle down: beautiful little Cook County up by the Boundary Waters and the Canadian border, with its lakeside views and just over 5,000 residents.

There are plenty of reasons the boomers will love Cook County, according to data compiled by 24/7 Wall St. Its older population (age 65 and up) is second in the state at 26 percent (Aitkin has it beat at 32 percent). Plus, it has a healthy population of primary care physicians at 173 for every 100,000 people. Estimated expenses for a family of two -- say, your typical retired couple -- are about $4,300 a month, putting it in the top 25 cheapest of the 87 counties.

Kjersti Vick of Visit Cook County says it’s no wonder people would choose to settle down there. Where else could you watch a moose graze in your backyard on Monday and meet people from all over the world visiting the North Shore on Tuesday?

Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux knows all this stuff. He’s the mayor of Grand Marais, runs a couple of businesses in the area, and fully intends to grow old there. But when he saw the 24/7 report, he balked.

Sure, he says, Cook County is a “fine” place to retire, especially when you factor in its natural beauty (Lake Superior, anyone?) and extensive outdoor recreational space. But all of those perks, he says, are counterbalanced with some pretty serious challenges.

For starters, remember that high population of older adults?

“All our [senior living] facilities are full of people,” Arrowsmith DeCoux says. Grand Marais has been trying to court a new facility for a while now, and the last one pulled out because there wasn’t enough population density in the area.

And sure, there’s a lot of great medical care around, if you’re only counting primary care.

“We’re just starting to get basic chemo,” the mayor says, “And we’ve got an MRI truck that comes up here once a week.” Any seniors living with more advanced health problems, like heart conditions or diabetes, are going to have a harder time getting the care they need -- unless they want to keep driving those two hours to a hospital in Duluth.

And the lovely lakeside housing? It’s great. In theory.

“About 90 percent of Cook County is public land,” Arrowsmith DeCoux explained. Just about every neighborhood is hemmed in on three sides by Lake Superior, the bluffs, and the forests -- which makes for a lovely, serene setting, but not for good expansion prospects.

“We’ve been working on building houses in Grand Marais for 10 years, and we just can’t keep up,” he says.

He doesn’t want to sound like he’s “trash talking” his home county. He’s going to keep skiing and biking, and getting involved in Cook County’s hands-on, engaged communities. This is still the place he wants to invest in and become an old man in, and it’s not a bad place to do so.

Then again, he says, that probably goes for lots of places where people grow up and live their lives.

It’s early to get worked up over this yet, since Americans age 55 and up are likely to stay in the workforce for a while, thanks to their longer, healthier lives and the hit their retirement savings took during the Great Recession. About a third of middle-aged Americans plan to work at least part-time after age 65 -- and another 4 percent are still going to be working full-time, according to a USA Today survey taken in 2017.

But when the time comes, Arrowsmith DeCoux has some advice: “You’d probably be just as well-off in a community you know, and where you have a lot of social capital built up.”