The Villages: Where Baby Boomer Delusions Die Hard

by Jake Sorrow
File under: Baby Boomers12 Mar 2013 2:47 EDT

Imagine you were born some time around 1953. What was your childhood like? Dad drove a Studebaker he could actually finance. Mom managed to prepare nutritious meals without health campaigns run by Mamie Eisenhower. You believed that you would have a future somewhere in this empire of sunlit suburbia. Maybe you even fell in love at your local diner, to which you could walk without fear of being mugged or questioned by police. The spirit of Norman Rockwell lived in your hometown.

So what did you do with these opportunities, you who grew up in this idyllic paradise? Sure, the history books may say you protested against the conditions of your privileged upbringing, like the Buddha whose conscience could not let him rest after he left his princely palace and first saw suffering, but let's be honest here. Self-discovery and social protest were just phases for you. After Nixon freed you from the gold standard it was time to cash in on the groovy new 'liberated' economic structure all those protests you attended helped bring about. Besides, capitalism was getting cool. In a few decades you could move all the dirty factories off to cultures more interesting and exotic than that of the pale, ugly WASP establishment and just sit around and draw the salaries you deserve for being so socially aware, such a refined advocate of the middle ground between crass capitalism and inefficient socialism.  

And how hip your business could be! You can be rich and still be a good person! Instead of fighting with unions, having to take responsibility for industrial accidents, and dumping toxic waste in rivers, you can let the Chinese do that while you start a chain of cute little coffee shops cheaply staffed by the next generation of unemployed college graduates you've left in your wake. And you won't even have to worry about them seeing you as a wicked boss, since you have all the street cred from that summer at Woodstock, and you can advertise how your engage in 'fair trade' with third world peasants. GOOD COFFEE FOR GOOD PEOPLE indeed! God Bless America! 

Everything was working out beautifully, until your speculation on that 3rd real estate venture in LA went sour. Even Starbucks, that quintessential success story of your generation, had to scale back growth and close stores.  Where were the young yuppies following in your footsteps?  Where was the young couple with the credit to take that house of yours off the market? You'd done everything right all your life, even took a courageous stand for gay marriage in a letter to the editor of The New York Times once, yet now that bastard capitalism was still screwing over you and your good intentions. 

You could try and fight the system again, but now that the country's elected a black man you figure it's in good hands. Besides, as old age creeps up on you, an inexplicable strong nostalgia for your provincial upbringing overwhelms you. You've always been about reinventing yourself, and as you drive home from the office through abandoned urban slums en route to your suburban enclave you long for a radical model of social organization.  It hits you: 

Why can't I live somewhere where I don't have to see all this social decay I've worked my whole life toward eradicating? Sure, it wasn't there when I was growing up, and has only gotten worse as I have grown in stature and influence, but regardless, I don't deserve this.  Maybe that bastard Reagan was right after all.  I want to go somewhere where it's always "Morning In America". God, I'm tempted to vote for Romney this time around and tell all my friends I went for Obama.  Like that's going to change anything. I'm done with changing the world.  I need to find someplace to spend this pension before the kids start guilt tripping me with that "you used to be such a cool dad!" act.  I worked for this money myself, got a real job in the end, and I daresay they should do the same. 30 years old and working as a barista at Starbucks. God, I'm starting to sound like Rush Limbaugh.  I'm done with it all.  What am I going to do, retire?  No, there has to be somewhere where I can still be fun, creative, sexy, smart. An active adult community... isn't there a YouTube video of Joe Biden singing about one of them... I think it was called The Villages...

 

Yes: The Villages. The ultimate monument to the fantasies of early onset dementia. Life inside of a theme park. Endless geriatric summer camp in endlessly perfect weather. 10 country clubs. 50 recreation centers. 450 plus holes of golf. 60 pools. 142 pickleball and tennis courts. 1,800 activities. You will never be bored. You will never have to sit without a group activity and reflect on yourself and your life as an individual. You will never have to see ghettos or young people again. Welcome to the paradise of the guilty Baby Boomer conscience, where people know that the Social Security checks they defend so zealously against means-testing are going to fund lifestyles the most opulent Roman emperors couldn't have imagined as their entire society crumbles around them. Remember, young people: when these elders encourage you to earnestly work your way up through this society, they do so knowing that the highest reward at the end of this life will be a kind of mindless, evasive recreation at worst, or a pathetic second childhood of reliving interests disowned in their pragmatic careerism at best:

Though The Villages has a reputation for voting conservatively, and we imagine that George W. Bush, the first sitting President to visit The Villages, would be encouraged in his retirement hobby of painting cute little puppies if he lived there, don't be fooled. These people are engaged in a mode of life so radically divorced from tried and tested human existence that it makes an Obama regulatory agency seem cautious. There is nothing at all conservative about abandoning your community to live in a decadent pleasure society, just like how there is nothing conservative about starting preemptive wars allegedly to spread democracy around the world. In a real conservative community, the elderly, often requiring assistance, live with their younger family members. More importantly, their presence brings the younger community sources of wisdom from their unique historical circumstances. Ron Paul, who grew up during the Great Depression, warning millennials of future economic hardship and reminding them of a pre-socialist American character would be a good popular example of this relationship still properly functioning. A minority of young people and elders recognize the loss of this counsel and seek it out, but by and large both sides are perfectly content living in an entirely age-segregated society. The youths, too poor to own anything of substance, take to the virtual world of the Twitter-sphere and World of Warcraft, while the older generation also ignores everything happening in reality but can afford to build impressive physical monuments to their fantasies.  

One younger writer named Andrew Blechman managed to leverage some elderly contacts of his to sneak into the compound and do some journalistic reporting.  In his book Leisureville, anecdotal tales of hook-up bars and swingers societies, banana republic politics (the developer is essentially the town mayor, council, and jury),and virulent anti-youth sentiments abound.  Yet it all occurs in a backdrop so surreal it is difficult to take the issues discussed seriously. As he explains, residents literally live on something amounting to a  totally virtual plane at all times:

A few miles later,  I drive by a hospital, an assisted care facility, and a large Catholic church.  I go through another roundabout, cross an ornate bridge, pass something built to look like the crumbling ruins of a Spanish fort, and suddenly I'm in the "town" of Spanish Springs. I spot Betsy outside a Starbucks standing beside her shiny red Miata, dressed attractively in pale pink slacks and a white cardigan, and sporting a nice tan.  She greets me with a relaxed smile and insists on buying me a very welcome cup of iced coffee.  It's comforting to see a familiar face from back home.

"Isn't it nice?" she asks.  "People call it 'Disney for adults,' and I'm beginning to understand why.  I just can't believe I'm here.  I've met people that have been here for five years and they're still pinching themselves.  It's like being on a permanent vacation."

Surrounding us is in an imitation Spanish colonial town spiced up with a few Wild West accents.  There's a central square with splashing fountains, a mission-like building at one end, a stucco church at another, and across the way a saloon in the style of the old West with wrought iron balconies.  According to The Village's mythology, Ponce de León passed through this area,  just missing these waters- the fountain of youth he so desperately sought.  The streets around the town square are lined with buildings that appear to be about 150 years old.  There are faded advertisements on their facades for a gunsmith, and assayer, and a telegraph office.  I feel as if I'm on a movie set, which strikes me as an uncomfortable place to live.

....

We mosey around the square and then head to the western-motif saloon, Katie Belle's, which is for residents and their guests only.  Outside, a historical market explains the building's colorful past.  "Katie Belle Van Patten was the wife of Jacksonville Decker Van Patten, who, along with a number of other investors, built this luxurious hotel in 1851...."

The plaque looks so authentic I have to remind myself I am standing on what was pastureland a mere decade ago. (p. 12-13)

The Villages is a mausoleum for a desiccated culture, a place of fake history which will be regarded by history as the most desperate attempt of a generation that squandered its inheritance to craft something enduring. Yet delusions die hard- they would sooner turn the world into a theme park than admit that they have entirely failed to create a world as amenable to a free spirit as that of their 'square' parents, and see the extravagance of their designs as a weak proof of their own self-worth. Alas, of this mania The Villages is only the most striking representation...

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COMMENTS

Pavlov says:01 Nov 2014 15:59 EDT
I recently spent a night and morning at The Villages in Spanish Springs, out of curiosity. I'm 50 which either makes me a young Baby Boomer or an old Gen Xer. I wanted to see what my future retirement options might include.

The Villages is a horrible place, it's inherently fake, it doesn't reflect 21st century United States. Almost everyone there is older and whiter than the rest of the US. Unfortunately, the residents and other oldsters vote and have the money to influence the political system in this country. There were people there who didn't need Social Security, but who still thought they were entitled to it, at the expense of younger workers who have to pay for it. Side note, there is no such thing as a Social Security fund, it's an accounting fiction.

I was sitting in bar/restaurant there with a number of old guys who thought they deserved government benefits such as Social Security and Medicare, even though they contribute little to our society. They were vociferous against "socialism" by the current leaders such as Obama, not seeing the disconnect between their government benefits and their attitudes. Cognitive dissonance anyone?
Allen says:29 Aug 2014 23:18 EDT
Um... I think this is a lot more about boomer democrats, and the outcome of their welfare state.

If you want to live in a "father knows best" neighborhood, you probably don't want to hijack Section 8 vouchers, originally intended for war veterans, for use to move poor minorities and their spawn into middle-class neighborhoods.

Hi, Ferguson!

Also, Dems seem to think expanding their political base to the detriment of the middle-class via importing construction workers and fry cooks from Mexico en masse was a great idea.

Look at California now.

Chuck Colter says:29 Aug 2014 22:38 EDT
Buncha' old geezers drinking and playing their lives away, ignoring reality while they live in their booze-soaked bubble. Wrinkled skin housing the mentality of teenagers. Whatever happened to adults?
George Washington says:24 Nov 2013 18:16 EST
I cannot tell a lie. It's pathetic that the author would deny these people who have worked their entire lives, and don't have that many years left, the chance to live in a place such as this if that is their wish. What a petty little bastard. These people may have voted Republican all their lives - that is they voted against most of the things that have caused the rot and decay in America. I don't blame them for wanting to get away from that rot and decay that was caused by Democrats: cities filled with subhuman welfare scum, a bankrupt nation (more Democrat fault than Repubican, although the fault is shared),jobs shipped over seas, a Kenyan moron as President, etc, etc, etc.

Sonny Day got it right.

The author needs to get his ass perpendicular and get to work making things better and stop blaming one group for the problems in the world. Probably the biggest failure of the boomers is lack of discipline of their children who grew up to be a bunch of whining pussies like the author.
Sonny Day says:24 Nov 2013 13:07 EST
Yes, the country is a mess. Is it the boomer's fault? No. They're an easy target, I suppose, if one is too lazy to try to find out the actual causes. Of course, articles like this are intended to keep the spotlight away from the facts, which of course is the purpose of all propaganda. Much better for TPTB if the masses are at each others' throats....
Collectivists suck says:24 Nov 2013 11:45 EST
Stop blaming a single generation. There's plenty of blame to go around for America's blown inheritance. I am a Gen-Xer and there are plenty of losers among us. The so-called "Greatest Generation" had some of the biggest whiners and chiselers. They were a formidable voting in the Reagan years that prevented any cuts to Socialist Insecurity, and after all, it was they who raised the "Boomers".
Ass-Kicking-Boomer says:24 Nov 2013 1:51 EST
The article is complete BS. Obviously written by an imbecile who has no life experience of any kind. He squeals like a sow giving birth to a litter of broken bottles over a few people who can afford to live in places like The Villages. He claims they live lives of great oppulence. A 1 minute internet search reveals median annual household income in the villages of $42,542. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Villages,_Florida

I guess if you are a twit like the author and can only make minimum wage that must sound like a mountain of money. This author needs to have his mama whip his scrawny, useless little ass, and send him off in the world to make something of himself. He needs to write his congressman daily begging them to increase the Social Security payroll deduction so there will be enough money when his useless ass is ready to retire, because there is NO possibility that this little runt will be able to provide for himself.
Ugh says:17 Sep 2013 17:17 EDT
Baby Boomers: The first generation to suck everything dry and screw over their children and all future generations. Oh they might have done a year in Vietnam for a single year where the smoked pot, screwed Asians, and got drunk. Meanwhile we do multiple years with no beer, pot, or girls. Yet me end up with less because boomers already sucked everything dry and sold anything not nailed down.
Brandon says:16 Aug 2013 13:22 EDT
You have nailed a good piece of what makes the baby boom generation the greatest failures and the greatest hypocrites.
Old Boomer says:29 Jul 2013 18:47 EDT
An article whose very essence is collectivism, as if individuals don't exist. But hey, it's easy and fun to blame everyone but yourself.

BTW I won't be taking Socialist Security. Would you do the same, in my place?
bubba says:29 Jul 2013 14:32 EDT
People should take responsibility for their actions, good and bad, and not blame some amorphous group for their problems. Time's have been tough before, they are tough now, they will be tough again in the future. Given that does everybody think somehow that they were going to escape financial reality simply because they are so special?
Anonymous says:29 Jul 2013 14:02 EDT
This article is mostly incorrect. Only the very tail end of the boomers were the socialists and their puppets, and then most them were the Harvard types, you know, Paris Hilton and Jane Fonda type. Most boomers had to work and had neither the desire or money to be hippies. Who do you think fought in the Vietnam war? A lot of them were volunteers. But the type you write about were deeply involved in inherited media jobs and soon to be college professors. Witness the Obama's mentors and cohorts. You would see them in the student union all the time on the way to your part time job or next class. They didn't worry about anything, grades, draft, money. They were the John Kerrys, Bill and Hillary Clintons, and Al Gores. They were boomers, but not representative of that generation. For me, I liked Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. The first Bush was way too liberal for me.
The point is, this article was a smear job on a lot of good people.
Anonymous says:29 Jul 2013 11:01 EDT
@fred

So who is to blame, then? Your parents (WW2 vets),or your childern? Unfortunately, you'll probably say your children, as that's what Boomers generally do. Fits in with your whole "irresponsible adult" lifestyle.
fred says:29 Jul 2013 10:54 EDT
This so called article is one of the largest vitriolic series of lies i have ever seen......as one born and active in the times referred to, my generation started protesting poisons dumped in the lakes and rivers before being co-opted by politicos (like the Tea Party was taken over by political scum),asking what reason we were killing and being killed in Vietnam, awakening to the vast bunch of political scum you seem to represent,.....as a tool and die maker, i didnt appreciate being screwed out of my favorite career so some bigwigs could have even more unconscionable profits AND promote Poverty, slave labor, and the deindustrialisation of America......my "generation " was not invited to join your CFR or Goldman Sux unless they came from the correct families AND demonstrated complete lack of morality, scumbo.
Verity says:29 Jul 2013 9:33 EDT
Sad to see that the Norman Rockwell type of life that the Boomer generation turns out to be what the Boomers wanted all along. I though they wanted to "tear down" they system. I though they wanted to "tune in, turn on, drop out.".

Instead they want the life of "Father knows Best."

Sad when you see the broken lives they climbed over to get there. The Black Panthers, when they make their move, will regard these enclaves as pleasure palaces.

B Woodman says:29 Jul 2013 9:20 EDT
No thanks. I've been to two earlier versions of The Village. They were Sun City and Sun City West, both suburbs of Phoenix AZ. Between the heat, the politics, and the fees, they are nice places to visit the relatives there, but not a place I'd ever want to live.
Veritas says:29 Jul 2013 1:59 EDT
It takes a cretin to subject himself to the reality of city living. If you want to make a difference live in Newark. I prefer to live in a community that is safe, without the advantages of diversity that are so evident in LA, St Louis, Detroit, New York or Flint.
Bill Harzia says:28 Jul 2013 23:51 EDT
I have a writer friend, who called this sort of thing "trying to maintain an Ozzy Nelson lifestyle in an Ozzy Osborne world."
Millennial Serf says:28 Jul 2013 22:23 EDT
Thank you, sir. This is the best summation of the utter failure of the Baby Boomer generation. The "Greatest Generation" truly birthed the "Worst Generation".
FutureHealot says:29 May 2013 9:57 EDT
Fantastic article. Absolutely nailed it. You clearly articulated what most of us only vaguely sense each time we stop at Hardees anywhere in America before 9AM.
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