15 October 2010

Letter from a reader; My response

Dear Andrew:

I read your book, "Leisureville" twice, as we are considering moving there. There are a couple misconceptions that I would like to clear up. First of all, when I was your age, I also thought active retirement communities were ridiculous and my grown children actually remember me saying that. I am not against children. I do not mind having children around, and I would never consider moving if my children didn't relocate after they graduated from college and we are moving simply to live closer to them. If we move into a development, most of the families would be young and their conversations would be about PTA and such. I always had a problem with getting old, and although I love children (I was a teacher!), I feel older when I'm the oldest person in the neighborhood. In the Villages, or anywhere else for 55+ residents, I wouldn't feel so old, since I would be among my peers. Again, your book insinuated that we are moving away from our children. My son relocated from NJ to Florida, and our primary reason for moving is to be near him and after he's married, to be near our grandchildren. Since we have to move to be closer to him, it just makes sense to live someplace that has activities, so my husband doesn't watch TV all day. By being active, it keeps you young. Watching TV, or other inactive activity just makes you old much too quickly. Believe me, I have seen this with our parents.

I read your book because until recently, we didn't consider an active community, and Leisureville happens to be about the area we plan on moving to. My husband and I are very happily married for 34 years. Are the activities that go on in Katie Belle's really as bad as the book implies? I don't want to live in an atmosphere like that. Yet, my husband and I like to go out to dinner. We don't want to deal with people like Mr. Midnight. In general, is it like any other place, or is it a place for perverted old people?

Have you done any follow-ups to Leisureville? I'd definitely read them if you did.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
X
(kept anonymous by me to protect privacy of reader)

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My Response:


Dear X,

My point in the book is that these communities are not "bad" per se, but rather that they are a symptom of a societal / generational breakdown. Lean times are ahead and I don't think segregation (voluntary or otherwise) is going to lend itself to cooperative sharing when the pie continues to shrink. Regardless, I suspect you'll rather enjoy life in The Villages. Most people there adore it. It is not a "perverted" place in any way, so there's nothing to fear in that way. And as judgmental as you sound about Mr. Midnight, he's actually a very decent guy, not some sort of ass-pincher. He's well liked and for good reason.

Keep in mind that The Villages is extremely conservative Republican for the most part; not particularly intellectual; there is very little diversity -- conformity is the rule, not the exception; there are lots of rules; and one family "governs" the place and they don't like dissent. And while the place itself is a playground paradise for active seniors, it's surrounded by sprawl and rural Floridians with a very different culture. If none of that is a problem, then I suspect you'll like it there very much. It's huge and there's lots to do. People make friends very quickly. But you won't hear from those who don't like it -- they've already left. Also keep in mind that parents who move to be near their children in today's world are often disappointed because their children often move again for jobs when necessary. Like I said, I don't see these communities as "the problem"; merely a symptom.

Best wishes,

Andrew

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been here 3 times for "extended vacations" now, to try to get used to the place.
I just can't. I read the book cover-to-cover, and if there's one thing I completely agree with, it's the dictatorial conformity of it all. The "do you have you membership card, do you belong here, are you a member, do you have the magnetic card to get in the gate, etc. etc." concept. Even the bankers/real estate people/maintenance people won't do business with you unless you're "in the system". It's the ultimate in Big Brother lifestyle - get ready to be watched & monitored, 24/7. If you can deal with that, sure, the amenities are fine - for now. What will happen when the developer gets weary & leaves? Your guess is as good as mine - or Mr. Blechman's.

Andrew D. Blechman said...

Great comments. Thank you. -- AB