Many Baby Boomers who have the income means to retire from work are escaping into gated communities and now entire villages. Is this cocooning a healthy reward to a life of hard work, or mere escapism?
In central Florida, a 21st century American boomtown defies economic gravity. It's called The Villages. The 2000 census counted around 8,000 residents in the retirement community - now there are at least 80,000. At The Villages, there are no permanent residents under age 19. Children who visit are unwelcome after three weeks. Every household is home to at least one person over 55 - and they keep coming.
New residents buy homes that range from under $150,000 to more than $1 million. One of the huge attractions is golf. In The Villages, when you speak about being convenient, that means "golf-cart accessible." The allure of sunshine, low taxes, golf, bowling, dancing, mah-jong, and the ease of shopping and meeting people has fueled the phenomenal growth of The Villages - and it keeps growing.
Another striking thing about The Villages is that the developer owns just about everything. He owns the local radio station, which of course plays oldies and is piped by loudspeaker to the two downtowns. He owns The Villages Daily Sun, a full-size newspaper with multiple sections. The developer also owns a golf-car store, which advertises in the paper and on the local radio station, and sells carts that look like actual cars with headlights. Andrew Blechman, who wrote about The Villages in his book Leisureville, calls The Villages an age-segregated community.