Monday, July 07, 2014

The Village People

Boomers, there's no need to feel down.
I said, boomers, pick yourself off the ground.
I said, boomers, 'cause you're in a new town
There's no need to be unhappy.

That’s because there’s a place you can go and find many ways to have a good time golfing, riding around in golf carts, line dancing, and worshipping at a church that seems entirely devoted to entertainment.

Anyway, use the word “geezers” interchangeably with “boomers,” and that place is The Villages in Florida, the “world’s largest retirement community” and, amazingly – at least to me  - “America’s fastest-growing metropolitan area”.

Its population of 110,000 has more than quadrupled since 2000, U.S. Census Bureau data show. It rose 5.2 percent last year, on par with megacities like Lagos, Nigeria, and Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Source: Bloomberg.)

Well, I suppose I’d prefer The Villages to – sight unseen - Dhaka, Bangladesh. And, having just read Chimamanda Adichie’s absolutely brilliant novel Americanah, I have no burning desire to transplant to Lagos, either.

Still. The Villages?

Weather, at least until rising sea levels inundate Florida, is, of course, a major appeal. Especially after this winter, I can see why Northerners want to lay their shovels and bags of ice-melt down and hop on the next Jet Blue going south.

But the big draw seems to be that, in the words of one happy resident, “It’s like an adult Disney World.”

Without the waiting lines or screaming kids: The Villages is a 55+ community.

This alone is a deal breaker, I’m afraid.

I may well end up in some Golden Age Home, but I’m really hoping to keep well and indie enough to stay on my own in a community that’s home to people of all ages. Okay, Beacon Hill isn’t exactly teeming with kids, and a lot of the kids here are, quite frankly, entitled little snobs. But I live in a small condo building where the ages range from just-turned-three to just-turned-96. (The two kiddoes in my building are not, by the way, members of the entitled little snobs brigade. They’re really sweetie pies.) In “my” stores, restaurants, and streets, I see and interact with people of all ages. I like that, on any given day, I may have a chat with my neighbor Dick (who’s in his 80’s), with the kids upstairs, or with a my-age friend I happen to run into.

And while it would the ultimate in hypocrisy for someone who lives an an almost entirely white neighborhood to attack The Villages on diversity grounds, I do think I’d find it a bit white-bread. There may not be a ton of “people of color” living in my ‘hood, but I don’t have to venture very far to get me some diversity. Just out the front door to watch the tourists stream by. Or cut through Mass General and see the UN in action with both the patients and the staff. Anyway, I live in a city that’s about 50% white; The Villages comes in at about 97%.

And I’m just not that in to golf carts as a mode of transportation. Give me a Zipcar, ay old day:

Golf-cart accidents have killed more people than criminals, said Elaine Dreidame, president of the Property Owners’ Association of The Villages.

I deliberately omitted the rest of that paragraph, which listed some of the major politicians that The Villages have hosted. (Enough not said.)

But I will note that there does not appear to be a Unitarian Church within The Villages’ confines.

The Church on the Square looked a bit promising, but when I clicked on its link it said nothing about its credo, and a lot about the entertainment it offered. (Come to think of it, that sounds bit Unitarian…) You decide:

Church on the Square is a beautiful southwestern style church that appears to be taken right out of the late 1800’s. Residents enjoy a variety of musical productions here throughout the week, including choirs, quartets, gospel groups, instrumentalists and opera, just to name a few. Every Christmas, Church on the Square hosts a ‘Countdown to Christmas’ featuring different holiday music every night!

That ‘Countdown to Christmas’ should have been the give away. Unitarians would have a countdown to Christmas, Solstice, Hanukah, Eid, and Kwanzaa.
(Having found the info I was looking for, I can confirm that it’s not UU. It’s non-denominational, with a different minister ministering each week. Mostly it’s about the entertainment. )

Although I am not now, and never have been, a Unitarian. short of moving to Ireland, I cannot imagine living any place that did not have a Unitarian church.

The creepiest thing about The Villages, which among other creep factors seems to have restrictions down to how many pet fish you can own, is that it’s a company owned community, developed and operated by The Holding Companies of the Villages Ltd., which is run by H. Gary Morse.

In addition to selling homes, Morse, 77, and his family own the local newspaper, a radio station and a television channel.

They also hold a controlling interest in Citizens First Bank, which provides mortgages. The holding company is the landlord of more than 4.5 million square feet of commercial real estate, including dozens of restaurants and retailers.

Actually, make that the second creepiest thing about The Villages.

The first creepiest thing about The VillaVillages Founderges is this statue of The Founder, who is Morse’s father. You’d think he was Walt Disney or something…

I’m sure it’s safe. I’m sure it’s clean. I’m sure it’s balmy.

But this all sounds a bit too Stepford-y for my liking.