Friday, March 18, 2005

There's "old", and then there's "Old"

Tonight is dropping the dog off with MIL and dinner...*sigh*. We won't be home much this weekend and her Royal Dogness needs potty breaks about every 4-6 hours...and she's MUCH too royal to spend a day in the back yard like she spent the first 5 years of her we are having dinner in The Villages.

No, it's a real place. Honest. It is not a movie set left over from the last M. Night Shyamalan production.

The Villages (also known as Hamunaptra -- all the wealth of Florida is there) is one of those places that has a multi-planar existance. Lemme 'splain. ON the surface it is Perfect Town USA. Clean, bright, shining, organized -- everything you could want. There's an actual downtown area (two, really -- they just built another) with a movie theatre and stores and a church you can walk to. Most people walk or travel by golf cart, which have their own "road". There are schools and a hospital's a town.

For people 55 and older. You cannot live in one of The Villages many, many, MANY housing subdivisions if you have children living with you, and if you are under 55. Now there are patches of pre-Villages housing. This is where the workers live. The schools are for the worker's children -- even, I believer, commuting workers from other areas can enroll their children in the schools. These are fine looking schools, too, to fit in with the perfect vision of The Villages.

Then there's the whole creepy feeling of living in a place where everyone is...older. In many of the subdivisions, the houses are IDENTICAL -- you better have your custom name sign hung out front, and maybe a plant, if you want to find your own house. I kid you not, I mean freaking IDENTICAL housing. Same color, same roof, same details, same landscaping. Even for a subdivision, which are known for uniformity, it's rather terrifying. And you can tell these places are not built for anyone to live in very long. The developers are planning for turnover -- ten, fifteen years tops, they think.

Of course, there are rules, lots of rules. This is a retirement community, so everyone has lots of time to be concerned about what everyone else is doing, and to make up rules about it.

But the most icky layer for me is the idea that we as a society want to segregate people by age and put everyone into their own "zones", so to speak. We shove all the older people into their perfect little villages. They WANT to live together like that, with only occasional visits from the rest of the world. Everyone understands them there. Why should they want to live in a mixed-age environment?

Oh, and The Villages is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Republican, and overwhelmingly middle-upper to upper income. Did I mention that thing about segregation?

It is interesting to note that you may only legally segregate/discriminate by age if you are doing so against people YOUNGER than you are. There are laws in place that prevent descriminating against an older person for a job, for housing, for whatever -- but you can do it like this, for "retirement". I wonder if anyone has tried to start an apartment complex just for people 20-39? I wonder how the 40+ group (of which I am now a member) would react to that? Nothing gets someone's blood boiling like telling them they are "old".

I suspect that as the members of the "youth culture" from the 50's and 60's now are climbing that mountain to "old", our whole perception will change. I suspect that The Villages is already becoming outdated, an ideal of people from another era. Putting older people into their own little towns will cease to be a viable or attractive option.

Feh. It's one of the few areas with descent restaurants in all of Lake County, too. They've got the one and only Panera's in this area there. Damned priveledged classes!

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