Oklahoma is one of the nicer states in which to retire. Most people here are friendly, especially in the rural areas. Tulsa boasts nice parks and interesting places to visit, while Oklahoma City tends to be more of a suit-and-tie business city.
Neither city even comes close to the activities and venues available in New York City or San Francisco, but not all retirees care that much about Broadway shows or hanging out on Fisherman's Wharf. Some people just want quiet, safe, friendly neighborhoods.
Oklahoma is paradise for hunters, hikers, and fishermen. Home to more than 200 manmade lakes and 62 10-acre or larger oxbow lakes, Oklahoma has more than one million surface acres on its lakes for boating, swimming, fishing and every other water sport except surfing, especially in the eastern half of the state. The state has six scenic rivers. There are several natural salt plains and saline rivers in the western half of the state. There are three major rivers in the state: Neosho (Grand), Canadian, and Verdigris. Those lakes and rivers bustle with activity throughout most of the year.
There are more than 400 listings for places to enjoy camping in Oklahoma, including three National Park Service units, three national forests, three wilderness areas, one national recreation area, two national historic sites and two national historic trails. More than 12 million acres – approximately 28 percent of the state's total land area – are forested. There are no records available about how much land the Bureau of Land Management actually owns in Oklahoma, but the BLM Oklahoma Field Office manages 7.4 million acres of federally owned land Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. Outdoor activities abound throughout the state.
Oklahoma is halfway between New York and California. While some residents lament the state's lack of social activities compared to coastal states, many residents are all to happy to be 1,500 miles from the smog, pollution, traffic jams, outrageous rent, fast-paced living, and serious crime that America's largest cities offer. Rural residents in Oklahoma often survive on less than $1,200 per month, including food, utilities, and rent. Even quality health care is on par with most any other state.
Property crime is an issue in Oklahoma – especially in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, mostly because of the larger populations in those cities. Small rural towns, on the other hand, enjoy some of the lowest crime rates of anywhere in the nation, especially when it comes to serious crimes, such as rape, murder, and armed robbery.
Like any American city, Tulsa and OKC have their bad areas and their safe areas. Any densely populated city with high poverty rates will have a lot of serious crime. About 71 percent of Oklahoma's violent crimes are aggravated assault, mostly barroom brawls and domestic violence, with the largest percentage confined to rougher, larger metropolitan neighborhoods, not small towns and suburban neighborhoods. By far the safest neighborhoods in Oklahoma are small towns with 10,000 residents or less and with median annual incomes of $35,000 or more.
Small-town Oklahoma residents do not fear gang violence; instead, they fear home burglaries while they are out fishing. Consequently, 38 percent of all Oklahomans have home security systems, while 47 percent rely on firearms to protect their homes. Fifty percent of all Oklahomans rely on dogs for protection, and some residents use all three methods. The reality is that home burglaries in small Oklahoma towns are among the lowest of anywhere in America.
Oklahoma's lackluster social life is offset by outdoor activities, low crime, friendly residents, and clean air and water.
Mark Stepp is a retired senior technical writer and former newspaper reporter/editor. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and a graduate of Northeastern State University with a BA in education and journalism.