by Barbara Cline
You may have passed one walking on Connecticut Avenue or they may have been in the audience at your last Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting.
They are Retired Urban People, or “Ruppies,” as described by Kyle Ezell, author of Retire Downtown. Ruppies are part of a predicted mass migration back to the cities, trading in their suburban homes for urban high-rise units.
Ezell points out that there are many reasons why ruppies are attracted to urban downtowns. First, there are the opportunities for culture and entertainment. Here in DC you can attend a free concert at the Levine School of Music, visit the Katzen Arts Center at American University or go to a Smithsonian museum on the mall.
Ruppies also value convenience. High-rises typically have 24/7 concierges and/or maintenance crews, eliminating the need for snow shovels, power tools or lawn mowers. Ruppies are attracted to the ease of transportation in cities. You can trade in your car for a bus and subway pass or walk to most places. And when you do need a car for an occasional errand or trip, you can now rent them by the hour or the day.
Ruppies may have found the fountain of youth. Retiring downtown has been said to keep one young. You will naturally interact more with younger people, who can provide you with a more vibrant outlook on life.
Finally, ruppies are often involved in their communities because they both see and know their neighbors as well as regularly support their local business owners.
So do ruppies actually exist?
For 20 years, Fran lived in a four-story Bethesda, Maryland, home. Widowed in 2001 and developing knee problems, in March 2006 Fran sold her home and moved to a high-rise condominium in DC.
And Fran has never looked back. She does not miss the suburbs, which “got too quiet and I felt isolated.”
Fran thrives in the city. She attends book talks at Politics and Prose and uses her METRO Smart Card to go to the Landmark movie theaters on both E Street and in Bethesda to catch the latest art house films. Fran has a youthful energy, perhaps because she has wide range of people in her life – including a group of friends aged 40-77 who go out to dinner together each week.
As for community engagement, Fran is a member of her condominium’s board of directors. But most of all, Fran has found a “second family” at IONA Senior Services, 4125 Albemarle Street, NW (www.iona.org). Fran started volunteering at IONA in 2010, and now works as the receptionist every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am-2pm.
IONA is the lead agency for the DC Office on Aging in Forest Hills, Ward 3, helping people age well and live well by offering exercise, educational workshops, art gallery receptions and “age well” consultations.
Interested in volunteering at IONA or learning about advocacy opportunities in your community? Contact Lylie Fisher, Director of Community Engagement at IONA, 202-895-9425, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fran’s advice to other suburban seniors thinking about becoming “ruppies?” “Go for it!” And be sure to stop in at IONA and say hello to Fran.