Here Come The ‘Grampies’

Posted Aug. 14, 2009, at 6:02 p.m.

Are you a “grampy”? “Grampy” is Dr. John Crompton’s acronym for the “growing number of retired, active, monied people” in excellent health. The more important question is what can your town do to encourage grampies to buy houses and settle.

Dr. Crompton, a professor of recreation sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, and a member of that community’s city council, is a scholar in the subjects of recreation, tourism and parks. He spoke recently to the Belfast Senior College about the role parks and other recreation amenities play in a local economy.

His research shows that retirees are one of the only demographic groups who have a positive tax impact; that is, they generate more money for a municipality than they cost it. Retired couples bring with them an average annual income of $40,000, which means every 100 who settle in a community pump $4 million annually through the local economy.

So what attracts these golden citizens? Quality of life, Dr. Crompton says. More specifically, those in their 60s and 70s want to see parks, open space, waterfront access, bicycle and walking paths, tennis courts and other recreational amenities. Certainly, cost of living, health care options and cultural activities are also factors that are weighed when these folks consider relocating, he says.

Proof that Mainers understand the value of public land comes when voters consistently approve bond issues to replenish the Land for Maine’s Future Fund. “That’s consistent with the trend all across the country,” Dr. Crompton said. A 250-acre tract of fields and woods purchased with those funds is just part of the public land portfolio, he explained. It plays a different role from the park at the edge of town with ball fields and a track, the pretty park with fountains in the center of town and the narrow open corridor that gives access to a view of the lake, river or bay. Together, they are critical to a town’s quality of life.

“The value of your property tax base is a function of what’s not on your property tax base,” he said. In other words, the schools, churches, parks, boat ramps, beaches and other non-taxed property increase the value of houses.

Some Maine towns have learned the value of keeping a key property acquired by tax lien, tearing down a decrepit building and creating even just a minimally developed pocket park. Others have taken the even less costly step of designating a scenic walkway along existing roads and sidewalks. Those sorts of trails are enjoyed by “grampies,” and they may encourage tourists to stay an extra night.

Research shows that most people do not begin new activities once they are in their mid-20s. They are “leisure-literate” or they are not by that age, Dr. Crompton said, and so he worries about the “gadget” generation. At 65, he runs, swims, plays tennis and bicycles. If Dr. Crompton or his peers come to your town, “you better be ready,” he said, because grampies won’t be confined to a rocking chair.

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