28 July 2008

the Real reason why folks move into age-segregated communities

Sure, they say they love kids, they have special social needs, their grandkids love to visit, they deserve this, but the real reason is the exclusivity -- most of the world is kept at bay; life's frictions are edited out....

This from an Active Adult web forum:

"I went to the pool today in my relatively new 55+ community in Sacramento. There was not one single person in the clubhouse or pool. The water was sparkling clear and the silence was beautiful. I swam laps in a peace and quiet that is rare in today's world. While I was drying out in the sun, I couldn't help smile that it was a "private" pool, but I didn't have to do any of the maintenance. Maybe this isn't the social mixing intent of an "active adult community", but I have to tell you, it's like being on Walden Pond with all the amenities."

(fellow bloggers response) -- "I see your point!!"

My response: Walden's Pond with all the amenities? You CAN'T make this shit up. Folks in age-segregated communities have something else in common with Thoreau. The great American philosopher/writer didn't want his taxes to fund the current war at the time (us taking on the Mexicans) and today's Active Adults also want to decide where their taxes go -- to themselves.

26 July 2008

Quick: Buy irresponsibly before the government says you can't!

Now here's an honest mailing: This is from Pulte Homes, the corporate parent of Del Webb's sprawling age-segregated communities. The gist? -- Quick! act now and sign up for an economy-destroying irresponsible mortgage before the government puts a halt to this unethical practice -- Better yet, act now so you can sneak in a dubious mortgage that the American Taxpayers will soon be forced to bail out with billions of dollars this sort of wink-wink business practice. . . .

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your continued interest in Pulte Homes, Del Webb and DiVosta. We’ve been monitoring some exciting housing news and wanted to share it with you. Congress is currently working to pass a new housing reform bill to help stimulate the recovery of the housing industry. Before this formally goes into effect, NOW is the time to take advantage of existing home buying assistance programs that may be going away.

Two proposed changes are:
1. All government-sponsored zero-down-payment assistance programs would be eliminated as of October 1, 2008. To be eligible for these programs, all home loans would need to be approved by September 30, 2008.

2. The minimum down payment for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, the largest purchaser of mortgages in the United States, would increase from 3 percent to 3.5 percent.

Although these changes are not final, they are highly likely to happen. Given the number of our homeowners who have benefited from these programs in the past, we wanted to get this news out to you now so you can take advantage of these programs before the changes are enacted.

In addition, the proposed bill includes a government incentive program for first time homebuyers who close on their home by July 1, 2009. This benefit would be retroactive to April 9, 2008, so if you act now, you might qualify for an added benefit should the new law come to pass.

To find out about the program that works best for your personal home-buying situation, we encourage you to contact your sales associate today. It could make a big difference in fulfilling your new home dream.

Learn more about the exciting development here.


Pulte Homes, Inc.
100 Bloomfield Hills Parkway | Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48304


Why not use the above information to contact Pulte Homes and lambast them for their encouragement of questionable lending practices for which we will all soon have to foot the bill to bail this crap out?

With assholes like this, who needs . . . more assholes?

This is a published letter to the editor in response to an op-ed that I wrote for the Viewpoints section of the Arizona Republic's sunday paper. My favorite parts are his attacking of my name -- that hasn't happened since grade school -- and his equating of children with all that is bad in the world (somehow his grandchildren, who are only allowed to visit up to 30 days a year, don't fall into this offensive description, at least not yet. I I wonder how his grandkids might feel about this letter... Bunker up, baby!

I'm not sure what qualification Andrew Blechman has for foisting his egalitarian claptrap off on us ("Living in a world of exclusion," Viewpoints, Sunday), or just how he bamboozled you into accepting him as knowledgeable authority with no ax to grind, but, in a word: BLECH!

We live in an active-adult community. We're tired of the rat race. We enjoy the peace and quiet here; no screaming kids, no vandalism, lower insurance rates for home and auto. There's no graffiti - except political posters. No items mysteriously missing from our garages or yards or porches, no more broken windows, no wild parties, no exhibitionists speeding on local streets, no drag-racing. In short, no more kids!

We live in Sun City Grand, and it is grand! We love it. Our children love it. Our grandchildren love it! Our friends love it. Blechman is the only one who hates it, perhaps because he can't push egalitarianism here.

When our children were of age, my wife and I helped implement or manage or coach Pony League, AAA Little League, Little League, Senior Little League, Jr. and Sr. Babe Ruth Leagues and American Legion Sandlot League baseball teams. We coached at all of these levels, and I managed the entire Little League program for our town of 15,000 people.

My wife and I are trained Family-to-Family instructors and group leaders with the National Association for the Mentally Ill. I will be training in September to join our fire department's Civilian Emergency Response Team. We're in our 70s but still contributing to society.

So, Blechman, don't you dare tell us we haven't earned our peace and quiet. We earned it when you were still in diapers. - Joel Finkel, Surprise

Hey Joe "FINK" Finkel -- don't forget to lock the door to your bunker when your neighbor's grandkids come to visit.

23 July 2008

How to Get Reluctant Boomers to Buy into Age-Segregated Communities in a Crashing Economy . . . .

A recent advertisement to industry insiders from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB):

Registration Now Open for NAHB's Audio Seminar Get Hesitant Boomers to Buy Now!

If your 50+ consumers are taking a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to buying a new home in the current market, you won't want to miss this valuable audio seminar! To overcome buyers' reluctance, you need to understand that purchasing a new home remains a discretionary decision for this market segment, and anxiety about selling their existing homes is a major obstacle.

Participate and hear about:

Building value and offering incentives that won't break the bank
Making it easier for your buyers to sell their existing home
Why it's more effective to rely on your strengths to motivate your prospects rather than take a reactive stance to the down market
The psychology of today's consumers and how to conquer their fears about buying in the current market
Ways to educate buyers about their current financial portfolio and why they might not have to wait

The Get Hesitant Boomers to Buy Now! audio seminar features a panel of professionals, including large and small-volume builders, who cater to the unique 50+ market.

Register today at www.nahb.org/boomersbuynow. Participants need no special equipment other than a telephone!


20 July 2008

"Frisky" children? When are newspapers going to start addressing age-discrimination?

Active adult living: Heritage Highlands a nice mix
Friday, July 18, 2008

Retirees traditionally look for a little peace and quiet, away from the noise of frisky children and noisy teenagers. Active adult communities, restricted to residents 55 and older, provide this quieter setting, but with the added bonus of plenty of recreational amenities and activities for the residents.

At Heritage Highlands in Lovettsville in Loudoun County, Lennar Corp. is developing a community with a blend of rural peace, community amenities and easy access to ....

The casual way this newspaper story addresses so-called Active Adult communities strikes me as odd. What would people think if the words "children" and "teenagers" were replaced with an ethnic or racial group? Or maybe an insulting description of "older people"?

14 July 2008

New stats on the Age-Segregated housing market

The "Profile of the 50+ Housing Market" issued by the 50+ Building Council of the National Association of Home Builders includes statistics on everything from median income to average number of bathrooms.

Here are some highlights:

• The median income of households headed by someone age 55 to 64 is $53,000, meaning half of the 55-64 households earn more than $53,000, and half earn less. Judging by median income, households age 55-64 have been the highest earning group in the U.S since 1995.

• Since 1989, the net worth of all households headed by someone 55 or older has increased substantially, particularly among 55-64 households. Within this age bracket, median net worth grew from a little over $150,000 to $250,000 in just three years, from 2001 to 2004.

• At 40.4, Pennsylvania has the fourth-highest percentage of households 55 and older, behind West Virginia, Florida and Hawaii.

• Just under 1 million of the 26 million 55-plus households in the U.S. in 2005 lived in age-qualified, active-adult housing.

• Nearly half of the households in age-qualified, active-adult homes are in the South, compared with only 7.5 percent in the Midwest. The percentage in the Northeast is 19.4.

• More than 72 percent of age-qualified, active-adult communities provide recreational facilities, and 33 percent have open space within half a block. Among newly built communities, however, recreational amenities are nearly ubiquitous. Well over 90 percent of new-home buyers in age-qualified, active-adult neighborhoods report having access to at least one such facility.

• Zero percent of age-qualified, active-adult residents rate their communities below 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Sixty-seven percent rate them at 9 or 10, in contrast to only about 52 percent of 55-plus households in general.

• Why people chose an age-qualified active-adult community: 45 percent for the design/looks of it; 24.8 percent to be close to friends/relatives; 22.3 percent to be near leisure activities; and 21.6 percent for the housing unit itself.

About $7.3 billion was spent in 2007 for housing built in age-qualified, active-adult communities, 6 percent of the new construction projected for households headed by someone 55 or older.

• The majority of houses in such neighborhoods have two bedrooms and two baths, and the median size of a new unit is 1,906 square feet.

The joys of reader emails....

How's this for a rant?


Dear Mr. Blechman:

This is in response to an article on "Leisureville" which ran in the LA Times.

I've read your biography on the Web and no where does it say how old you are. That is a crucial item in addressing your criticisms of adult communities. Therefore, based on what little information I have about you and based on your photo, I have to conclude that you are the typical ME FIRST YUPPY who wants the world to pay for his kids education as well as slough off all his parental responsibilities. For you and your YUPPY conspirators, raising children distracts you from self-love and chablis and brie.

In case you didn't know, this country was based on individual freedom which translates into the right of all individuals to live life as they see fit. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that proscribes the value of society over the individual. I don't understand how you concluded that age segregation reinforces negative stereotypes. Further, it's beyond me how you also concluded that age segregation encourages less charitable instincts. I don't even know what that means.

Instead of writing YUPPY thrash like "Leisureville" and " Pidgeons," why don't you write a muckraking book about the corruption in Congress or the greed of Wall Street and mortgage bankers?

Sincerely, Bill Rivera

Feel free to email him a response. My policy is to respond to all reader emails, but this one...well, I think I'll let it slide. Perhaps Mr. Rivera will enjoy hearing from other readers instead....


The Villages still growing at record pace

This is from the businesswire, a public relations wire service, but I suspect much of the information is accurate.

The Villages is a Safe Haven: Retirement Income Supports Largest Growing Community in the U.S.

THE VILLAGES, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In spite of the national home building crisis, The Villages sold over 2,400 homes last year and gained 5,000 new residents. This brought the total population to almost 70,000, which is larger than Daytona Beach.

“This year is running even stronger than last year,” said Gary Morse, CEO of The Villages. “We are averaging 7 ½ homes a day, 7 days a week! This will make The Villages about the size of Melbourne by the end of this year.

The Villages is a self contained Active Retirement Community with 80 restaurants, 4 hotels, 2 movie theaters, 2 town centers, 8 shopping centers, 2.5 million sq ft of retail and commercial space, a daily newspaper, TV news network, radio station, hospital, 225 physicians, 15 pharmacies, 9 softball fields, 187 softball teams with 2,800 players, 42 neighborhood swimming pools at 42 recreation centers and 441 holes of golf in 9 country clubs and 24 executive courses.

Now that the building crisis has spread to commercial real estate, retailers and restaurateurs are moving to The Villages because of continuing growth of affluent retirees. The average Villages’ household has a recession proof income of $81,480.

Golf carts are a prime mode of transportation in The Villages. There are 35,873 homes in The Villages, (growing at a rate of 7 ½ per day) and 37,769 golf carts. Some homes have more than one cart.

09 July 2008

10 years after release of Viagra, good elder sex rising

Although some have called him a letch, I rather like the character Mr. Midnight. I appreciate how he challenges the stereotypes people have of older Americans. He has good sex and is not uncomfortable discussing it. I say: good for him. And it looks like his character is more prescient than ever: 10 years after the introduction of Viagra, a new British study shows that older folks (70+) are having wonderful sex. Kudos to them!

More over 70s 'are enjoying sex' (from the BBC)

"We still have this stereotype of elderly people with their bath chairs and canes, staggering around, who couldn't possibly be having sex - but that isn't the case." -- Dr Petra Boynton University College London

More couples over 70 are having sex - and finding it satisfing - than in previous generations, a British Medical Journal survey suggests.

Swedish researchers asked 1,500 older people across a 30-year period about their sex lives.

The number of people saying they had sex increased - as did the number of women reporting having orgasms.

A UK expert said the older people of today grew up in more sexually liberated eras.

Although there are plenty of studies about sexual "problems" associated with old age, there is relatively little research about "normal" sexual behaviour later in life.

The scientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden interviewed 70-year-olds in 1971-2, 1976-7, 1992-3 and 2000-2001.

They found that the number of 70-year-olds reporting sexual intercourse rose in men and women, married and unmarried.

Nearly all - 68% - of married men in the most recent survey said they had sex, an increase from 52%, while the percentage of married women having sex rose from 38% to 56%.

The number of men reporting physical problems, such erectile dysfunction or ejaculation dysfunction increased.

The number of women who said they were highly satisfied with their sex lives rose too.

When sexual intercourse stopped, both men and women tended to blame men, in line with the findings from earlier surveys.

Professor Peggy Kleinplatz, from the University of Ottawa, said that doctors should now be trained to ask all patients - regardless of their age - about any sexual concerns.

She said: "Sex is an important and positive part of the lives of their 70 year old participants, and more so for the current cohort of men and women than for their predecessors in 1971."

Sexual stereotype

Dr Petra Boynton, a specialist in the psychology of sex and relationships at University College London, said it was important to remember that someone turning 70 in the year 2000 would have been influenced by the more free sexual attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s - and also perhaps fitter and healthier than those in their 70s in previous decades.

She said: "We still have this stereotype of elderly people with their bath chairs and canes, staggering around, who couldn't possibly be having sex - but that isn't the case."

She pointed out that the study did not record the frequency of sex for any of those surveyed, simply whether they were having sex at all, and focused on penetrative sex, rather than other types of sex which might be favoured by older people.

"I am slightly concerned that this will be interpreted in a way that suggests that if you're not having sex in your 70s, you are doing something wrong.

"There are still plenty of people who choose not to have sex."

Older men who have more sex will experience fewer erection problems, report Finnish researchers.
A five-year study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, of 989 men aged 55-75 in Pirkanmaa, Finland, showed that having sexual intercourse less than once per week doubled the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED), compared to having sex once per week.

08 July 2008

Los Angeles Times Op-Ed


From the Los Angeles Times
An unattractive wrinkle in housing
Fast-growing retirement communities legally practice age discrimination.
By Andrew D. Blechman

July 8, 2008

There's a different kind of discrimination spreading in the United States. Despite all the popular rhetoric about family values, an increasing number of Americans are choosing to live in age-segregated "leisurevilles," where at least one household member must be 55 or older and enjoy living without children. No one under 18 may live there -- ever.

According to conservative industry estimates, more than 12 million Americans in the next decade or so will live in communities that forbid young families. This represents a drastic overhaul in our societal living arrangements.

Age-segregated communities were created half a century ago in the Arizona desert by developers looking for a marketing niche. The first was Youngtown, a modest affair built by Ben Schleifer, an idealistic Russian Jewish immigrant who wanted to construct a kibbutz-like community where older citizens could age affordably and gracefully. Del Webb, who drew from his experience with planned communities -- the Japanese detention camps he built during World War II -- liked the idea and built the much larger and fancier Sun City right next door. Experts on aging assumed that seniors would resist moving away from their families and that those who did so would wither from loneliness and depression.

The experts were wrong, and the two developments were very successful. Now, Youngtown is desegregated and Sun City is getting ratty around the edges. But age segregation has never been more popular. And by 2015, those age 50 and older will represent 45% of the U.S. population.

In a dimming housing market, "active adult" communities (most residents are in their 50s and 60s) remain the industry's sweet spot. Hundreds of communities are breaking ground each year, often in the North. But many are large Sunbelt leisure plantations, such as the Villages in Florida, the world's largest retirement community. It is nearly twice the size of Manhattan and will have a peak population of 110,000.

The Villages has two manufactured downtowns owned by one person (a third is on the way) with faux historical markers, more than three dozen golf courses and golden oldies pumped out of lampposts. Residents tool around on 100 miles of golf trails, often in carts pimped out to look like Hummers and Corvettes. There are continuing education courses, but many of the seniors prefer golfing and nights of line dancing to baby boomer classics like Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow."

Ten years after the introduction of Viagra, retirees are taking full advantage of what a child-free environment provides: lower taxes, untrampled lawns and better sex.

Like many of us, older Americans are thirsting for community, and these developments seemingly provide it. Suburban sprawl is not only alienating, its car dependency makes aging-in-place there near impossible, and with Americans moving, on average, 12 times during their lifetimes, few can return "home" -- everyone's gone. Add to this our fiercely youth-centric culture, the deteriorating civility of our society's younger members and the wide disparity among local tax rates, and you have a recipe for secession.

But though secession may be a pleasant experience for some, it comes at a steep price for society. Age segregation only reinforces negative stereotypes, leads to a willful forgetting of commonalities and encourages our less charitable instincts.

In Youngtown, for example, a couple was fined $100 a day for sheltering their grandson from a physically abusive stepfather. And in Sun City, residents defeated 17 school bond measures in 12 years (before de-annexing from the school district) because they had little interest in educating another generation of children. Meanwhile, students in the neighboring communities were forced to go to school in staggered shifts. Even Schleifer was embarrassed by the consequences of his idealistic contribution. "Our first obligation when I was a boy was to give young people an education, no matter what sacrifices it took," he said of the bond failures.

Now desegregated, Youngtown has regained its vibrancy, but Sun City is at risk of becoming a necropolis as its generational strife turns inward, with older residents resisting efforts by younger retirees to reinvest in the community. Although Youngtown was forced to desegregate because of faulty bylaws, age discrimination is not only legal, it's protected by the federal Fair Housing Act.

Isn't it time we ask ourselves as a nation if we really want to be encouraging communities where birth certificates are scrutinized at points of entry, and where young visitors are reduced to human contraband?

Congress should either raise the entry age for these communities to something actually approaching old or put an end to age segregation altogether. Meanwhile, reengaging with the younger generations -- rather than gating them out of our lives -- could result in a far happier outcome for all of us.

Andrew D. Blechman is the author of "Leisureville -- Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias."

07 July 2008

"No Seniors Allowed" -- but they can visit....

Try this on for size (from a reader):

As I finished reading your book, "Leisureville" at my parents' place -- they recently acquired 1200 sq. feet of paradise in The Villages -- I kept waiting with baited breath for you to ask the one burning question:

"How would seniors in general, and the AARP in specific, respond to an "Age Qualified" community that required one SELL his/her house and MOVE OUT upon his/her 55th birthday?"

Imagine, "NO SENIORS ALLOWED!" As one single mother of three states, "Well, you know... 'they' don't drive very well, and so often mistake the gas for the brake. I've got small children playing in the front yard! And, well... frankly...they kinda smell funny!"

I'd say it fits. What do you think?


Updates at The Villages: less water, less housing, same lack of democracy ... but the residents are loving it.

This just in from a reader:
"My mother in law lives in the Villages, and by and large I think you really
nailed the place.

I was just down there and many of the nascent issues you identified (water
use, rampant expansion) are apparently coming to a head. Also, there's a
slowdown in new-home construction (an expansion out to Wildwood is on hold,
though the Morses won't talk), and the ones that are being constructed are
now open to customization."

Looks like The Villages bubble is slowly deflating...


02 July 2008

Age-Segregated communities often attract people who don't like children: Imagine that...

This is not always the case. In fact, it is often not the case. However, it is frequently the case...

It goes to reason that the folks attracted to a world without children -- or at least a world where children may visit but must then leave -- are people who have issues with children. More often than not, I found that the people living in Sun City or The Villages either didn't have children, or had bad blood between themselves and their children. Once again, this is not always the case: there are plenty of Sun Citians and Villagers who love their children. But let's address those who not particularly fond of children.

For example, my neighbors who moved into The Villages. Dave Anderson was divorced and estranged from his two (now) grown-up children. He hasn't spoken to his son and daughter in something like 15 years. Their mother (who is still lives in town) tells me that this is a very painful experience for her essentially fatherless children. As a father myself, I can't imagine what would drive a man to abandon his children... except perhaps their step-mother.... Dave's second wife Betsy never had children and was unable to establish a relationship with Dave's son and daughter. Now they live happily without them in a community that does not permit children to be residents.

There are many more examples. Here are a few from folks who plastered my amazon.com book page with repetitive postings (literally, the same posting over and over and over again in different places) about how absolutely horrible, terrible, crappy, biased, miserable and detestable my book is. They fault me for only visiting The Villages for one month -- sorry I still have a family to feed -- and for not being older (hence I'm biased) -- I seem to remember speaking about that plainly up front and even quoting Villagers who suggest that I'm not old enough to understand their lifestyle choices. I don't know a lot of authors that permit their characters to criticize them/question their judgement.

Here goes:

From Joe B: "We have many swimming pools. If you enjoy the company of small children you are free to go to many of the pools that allow children. If you don't enjoy children you can use the adults only pools. Sounds fair to me.....

I suspect that most of these approving critics are of the younger generation, and have decided that their parent's and grandparent's generations consist largely of immoral, selfish, non-caring, self-centered, child-hating, hedonists. I pity their parents. I suggest you spend more time examining your own lifestyles, and get a life!
From Buckeye Debbie: "There is one trend that does concern me...it is the next generations that we have or are passing the baton to.....some of us Baby Boomer parents never taught them responsiblity and independence....they are still coming back home....calling for money well into their 20's-40's....taking for granted "free babysitting".....somehow can't take the stress of balancing family/career/financial....the author also blew the fact that only under 19 kids cannot live with their parents in The Villages...the rest of these very unresponsible 19 and older crowd can and do....

Do not give this book to your parents that are thinking about retiring or grandparents.....you will be be giving them a book of fiction and instead of nonfiction....then they can keep living above their means on a fixed income in some big city....totally isolated..... waiting for one of their kids, grandkids, or greatkids to "need" them for babysitting, dog sitting or some other just me stuff.... my only words are GROW UP and BECOME AN ADULT!!!"

From Pat: "My adult children love it here, also, and want to live in this community. As much as I love them, I enjoy living among my peers....

"WHY do we have to leave $$ to our children? Many people our age are still helping their children financially, as well as helping their parents. Why can't we use our money, money we earned, it wasn't "left to us," as we wish? Our generation wasn't given things, though we did give to our children when they were growing up. Maybe that wasn't such a good thing..;) ... [nobody is saying that you have to leave money to your children. that's your own personal choice.]

"Is there ethnic diversity? Who cares? Why is that important? If someone opts to "leave the community that nurtured them" during their youth, why shouldn't they?"

"It's nice to be able to come home to a community that's about the same size as the town I left and not worry about someone spray painting graffiti...."

Sadly, [the author] sometimes sounds like a spoiled child, protesting that older adults are no longer there to help out...someone else is going to have to work, heaven forbid, younger people. [so all young people are lazy, but boomers weren't?]

From Linedancer Bobbi: "If I have any correction to the book, it is the fact that there are no children. Children are everywhere here. No, they are not allowed to live in this community but they are allowed to visit and visit they do. [at least thatwas honest] One of the attractions of the Villages for us was the fact that they are so welcoming to children.... We just had our granddaughter attend her first camp and she was crying as she was going home." [Did her guest pass run out?]

From Bedboop: Swimming pools have been built throughout the community that are designated as family pools, does this sound like a community that does not welcome children. [the majority of pools don't allow children]

"Unfortunately, there are people that move to The villages, and for whatever the reason, just don't like it and they do the community a great injustice by bad mouthing the place... If you don't like The Villages, leave. For everyone one that leaves disgruntled, there will be hundreds of happy people to move in and love it."


What's that line in Shakespeare...? "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

-- adb