Move over Yuppies (Young Urban Professionals). Meet the ROPERs. What’s a ROPER? A ROPER is a Rural Older Person Enjoying Retirement.
When I broached this new term with my biking buddy Bruce, himself of three score and more, he said, “ROPER? Why not DOPER (Disgruntled Older Person Enjoying Retirement) or COPER (Curmudgeonly Older Person Enjoying Retirement)?”
“Fun, but not a good fit,” I replied. Beside, I promised my adult daughters never to become a NOPER (Nasty Older Person Exuding Rage) like our neighbor of their childhood and teenage years, the late agitated Al. For Al’s sake, I hope those weren’t the best two decades of his nine plus decades on this planet. The worst victim of that much grumpitude is the grumpy old man himself.
No, at sixty I want to become a happy and loveable old man, like ……well like my old man, the late Art Brandow, who after he moved to Davis from the Bay Area in his sixties just seemed to get happier and more content as he got older. Art was a prototype ROPER. So ROPER it is.
ROPER is a new term for what many of my friends have become and what I plan to become in the next few years as I leave my day job behind and start to enjoy more and more of what our small town has to offer.
Things like riding bikes to a world class concert hall to hear Yo-Yo Ma, taking bird-watching walks on the levees with my sweetie, raising more of the fruits and vegetables we eat, cycling in the nearby countryside with my buddies, and tapping out guided missives to our local paper.
Cities have a lot to offer, too, of course, and a dozen years ago we thought seriously about moving to San Francisco for our retirement. But circumstances and our thinking have changed over the last decade. Now I’m thinking we’ll stay put, maybe not in the same house, but in the same small town.
We’ve lived in much smaller towns. In fact, once upon a time, we lived in Davis when it was a much smaller town, under 25,000. I enjoyed that country living when I was younger, though we did feel isolated sometimes living in places like Sonora and Porterville. Sonora is in the heart of the Gold Country, and Porterville is midway between Fresno and Bakersfield and hard against the toe of the High Sierra. Housing is much cheaper there and newcomers are welcomed. We have many friends who are moving to very small towns to retire and they love the peace and quiet. I suppose they are the real ROPERs.
There are some drawbacks to taking rural retirement to the extreme. Public transportation within town and to regional cities is often poor or non-existent. Ambulance and other emergency services are spotty or absent. Advanced medical care is often a long way away. These and other drawbacks may not be the first thing on our minds at sixty, but will loom large at eighty, should we be that lucky.
A small town with a big university, like Davis, is different than other small towns. Davis offers concerts, plays, lectures, libraries and art galleries. Most small towns have a have a couple of shindigs every summer, but few small towns have a weekly gathering that is lively as our Wednesday evening farmers’ market in Central Park. Come to think of it Davis didn’t have a weekly event that was that lively when it was very small town. In fact I remember when very small town Davis used to hibernate through the long summer. Now the town just takes short naps.
When the bulk of students come back, the naps get shorter and less frequent. As a ROPER, I feel it’s my duty to welcome the new students moving into my neighborhood each fall. I know I’ve un-nerved more than one new student neighbor by saying hello, repeatedly, until they responded with a wave, a smile or a brief salutation.
Maybe they grew up in places where they didn’t know their neighbors. Maybe they want to remain anonymous to avoid culpability for future bad behavior, such as loud, sodden, house parties after midnight. But I really do want to welcome them as responsible members of the neighborhood.
It’s hard to remain anonymous in a close-knit neighborhood in a small town. Students who want to be anonymous and/or behave irresponsibly should live on campus. Students who want to be good neighbors are welcome.
To paraphrase a song from the Broadway musical OKALAHOMA!, the ROPERs and the AGGIES should be friends. Welcome back AGGIES. Say howdy to your grey haired neighbors, aka the ROPERs. Let’s all have a good year. Have fun, be safe.
Clay Brandow is a hydrologist with an exit strategy. He has lived in Davis off and on (mostly on) for forty years.