09 March 2009

Geritopias: Aging Badly (reader email)

Dear Mr. Blechman,

Just read one of your articles published in the "Arizona Republic" today entitled: Retirees glide to the finish on 'playgrounds'

Years ago as a much younger woman working in the banking industry, I was transferred to a branch located in Sun City West. I had been to Sun City before and we visitors always marveled at how neat and tidy everything was there - much unlike our "lived-in" communities - and Sun City West was no different, just newer.

By that time Sun City was 20 years old and the original residents were by now, 20 years older. Patterns were already becoming evident. People who had retied in the beginning with good health and good resources had experienced some unsettling changes over time. They had often developed life-altering illnesses and because of unforeseen economic conditions, their solid economic base had eroded and they no longer has very solid financial setting. For some, their illnesses required very costly treatment and medication that they hadn't anticipated on.

The young crop of retirees in their late 50s who were healthy, wealthy and active, were drawn to the new Sun City West. They didn't want to live in Sun City which was much slower and too insulated. It was interesting to observe that about-to-be-oldsters didn't and do not want to hang out with official oldsters because they see what the future will be bringing to them and they don't want to face it or to know the realities.

Therefore, since Sun City did not draw or attract newer retirees to replenish the fading popluation, the aging population continues to grow. It is a downward spiral. Add that to the fact that they don't want to invest in the future. Why should they when it won't benefit them? And they need their money now. The fact that spending money today will help forestall some unpleasant realities down the road, eludes them. They bought a false reality. They had earned their money. It was their's. If they lived in a walled-in complex and separated themselves from the outsiders, then they wouldn't have to be paying for things like elementary schools since they didn't have any in their complexes. There would be no loud noises like the ones that kids make and no messes like kids make. It is really like a warped "Stepford" like existence. There was even a horrible quote from one oldster-ette in a recent newspaper article, "All the taxes we do pay, we want to keep and spend on ourselves".

I found them to be very unloving, unaccepting, judgemental and critical. We would often hear of people turning in their neighbor's to the local association for real or unreal infractions - like having a cat outside who dared to invade their back yard.

Sad to say, the few that are really vocal tend to get the recognition which then unfortunately tends to create the appearance that all oldsters are alike when that is not true either.


Penny M.
Phoenix, AZ

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