What are active age communities
Seniors in Florida - The dream of the good old days
More and more retirees from the northern United States are settling in Florida in senior communities. The so-called “active adult communities” offer retirees a carefree life, shielded from reality. The Villages is the largest community of its kind and a Republican stronghold.
No church in the US is growing as fast as The Villages right now. 127,000 senior citizens now live in an area that, at 86 square kilometers, is already larger than Manhattan.
The Villages consists of three village centers: Sumter Landing, Brownwood and Spanish Springs. Each of the centers has a large village square where live concerts take place in the evenings. There are also countless restaurants, shops, theaters, cinemas and even an opera house.
Anyone wishing to live in The Villages must be at least 55 years old. Children and young people under the age of 19 are only tolerated 30 days a year.
Anyone visiting The Villages thinks they are in the film "The Truman Show": The publicly accessible centers have been designed on the drawing board and seem like a longing for the supposedly healthy 1950s that has become stone. Next to the manor house is a wooden barn and a Wild West saloon - “Bonanza” meets “Gone with the Wind”.
The water wheel of the grain mill turns even without water supply, the meter of the gas pump has remained at 1.75 dollars per gallon for years. The crumbling house plaster, faded house inscriptions and weathered wood turn out to be artistically painted backdrops on closer inspection.
The shops in the village centers reflect the needs of older customers: hearing aids, reading glasses, oversized clothes. Medicare, the state health insurance for retirees, and countless doctors specializing in old age are also present.
Those who can no longer live in their own four walls for health reasons move to one of the care centers. There is also a large regional hospital on the grounds of The Villages with specialists in strokes, heart attacks and rehabilitation.
The most important means of transport in The Villages are golf cars. Most of the 52,000 or so small vehicles run on a track system built for them. Ordinary cars pass under the streets in tunnels.
The golf cars reach a top speed of 40 kilometers per hour. Residents report, however, that some owners "hairdos" their vehicles in order to be able to drive faster. Accidents happen almost every day. The cause is mostly supposed to be driving in a drunk state.
A good mood is a must in The Villages: In the 120 restaurants and bars there is “happy hour” every day from five to seven in the evening. Live bands and karaoke ensure a boozy evening after work. In the local newspaper "The Villages Daily Sun" you can find advertisements from countless groups of AA, alcoholics anonymous.
There is also a persistent rumor that The Villages has one of the highest rates of infection with sexually transmitted diseases in the country. Statistics do not support this. Stories about faithless husbands and fun-loving widows are part of the daily small talk in the village square.
Last year, a drug raid also caused a stir. The police found large amounts of metamphetamine and potency pills in a villa.
The Villages lives up to its claim to be an “active adult community” with around 2000 leisure activities every day: from discussion groups to knitting groups to “laughing yoga”. There are also 52 golf courses and countless swimming pools on the site.
The most popular sport is pickleball, a type of beach tennis. The game is played with four people on a hard court. In order to be able to afford the expensive leisure activities, quite a few residents work part-time in the shops and stores.
Visitors are registered at the entrance to the closed residential areas. The individual quarters differ in the size and style of the houses and gardens. The smallest houses can be had for around 70,000 dollars. Reversible villas cost a good million dollars.
Strict design principles apply to every quarter. The houses in a quarter only differ in nuances. Nothing may be changed on facades or front gardens without permission. There are strict limits to individuality. Pumpkins and Halloween decorations are currently allowed.
Political advertising and candidate signs in the front gardens are prohibited. These are only tolerated on cars and golf cars.
Many retirees from the conservative American Midwest live in The Villages. In elections, Republican candidates in The Villages receive twice as many votes as Democratic candidates.
Donald Trump clearly won here two years ago. Also because the voter turnout at 80 percent is higher than the national average, hardly any candidate can now afford to leave The Villages out of the campaign tour. Vice President Mike Pence has performed here, as have Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.
The local radio station WVLG belongs to the conservative media group Fox News. Countless loudspeakers in the village centers, attached to lamp posts and hidden in bushes, ensure continuous acoustic irrigation.
“The fact that 'The Villages' is a Republican stronghold was the main reason I moved here,” says Lee. She is responsible for public relations with the local Republicans.
Marina, on the board of directors of the Florida Republican Party, is pleased with Trump: “He has led the country in the right direction. Share prices are high, my fortune has grown. It is the results that count. "
John, the president of the local party, adds: “Trump is not a good talker, but ensures that problems are solved. Many people don't like that. "
When Barbara moved here a year ago, she thought she was the only liberal in town. "Democrats hardly dare to identify themselves here." She is still involved in the election campaign, but has often had to listen to insults from Republicans.
Her party colleague Joann even reports property damage. "A friend of mine got the car scratched with a key because she had stickers for democratic candidates on the bumper." Both are convinced that the political climate in The Villages has become harsher since Trump was elected to the White House.
Dana Cottrell, the Democratic candidate in the eleventh electoral district, which includes The Villages, was expelled from the site while collecting signatures in public spaces.
One of the three village centers is entirely in the Spanish colonial style. However, you hardly hear a Spanish word in the streets. "There are already Latinos here," explains an elderly lady in the main square of Spanish Springs, "but they work for us".
Officially, 5.5 percent of The Villages residents are Hispanics. The majority of them work as gardeners or domestic helpers. The same goes for people with dark skin.
On weekends it is almost impossible to find a free parking space in the village centers. Markets, parades and festivals also attract outside visitors. The number of residents also rises sharply around Christmas. Then come the so-called «Snowbirds»; Retirees who only spend a few weeks in winter at The Villages.
42,000 more residential units are already planned in order to be able to meet the increasing demand. In a few years' time, as many people will be living in The Villages as in the city of Basel.
Public evening entertainment with various live bands begins daily at 5 p.m. on all three village squares. Clear rules also apply during these concerts: children must be supervised, smoking is prohibited and alcoholic beverages may only be consumed if they were bought directly on the square.
"Line Dancing" is popular in The Villages. Larger formations of tireless senior dancers usually form spontaneously. At 9 p.m. on the dot, the organized happiness is over. The music falls silent, all shops and restaurants close. Half an hour later the streets are deserted.
You go to bed early in The Villages. Most leisure activities for the “active adults” start at eight in the morning.
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