Wednesday, May 7, 2008

(The Villages Is About Florida Retirees, But A Lot Of Those Same Grey Hairs Summer Up Here)

Book exposes 'darker view of sunny retirement' in Florida
By Adrian G. Uribarri, originally published in The Orlando Sentinel, May 7, 2008

The Villages - The book cover projects a pleasant view of retirement: a row of houses and golf carts, a pool, a tennis court. Even the title seems complimentary to residents of this retirement community, about 60 miles northwest of Orlando.

So much for appearances.

In Leisureville: Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias, released last month, author Andrew D. Blechman uses The Villages as the key example in his 244-page critique of retirement communities across the country. He started writing the book a few years ago, after his New England neighbors moved here.

Now, some Villages residents are miffed about how he portrayed their lifestyles.

"Boy, that guy went looking for dirt — and he found it," retired software engineer Joe Becker said of the author. Becker, 79, panned Blechman's book on after he bought it about two weeks ago at a bookstore in the retiree haven.

"Ninety percent of the people here are happy 90 percent of the time," Becker said.

Throughout the book — called a "darker view of sunny retirement" in The Wall Street Journal — Blechman highlights the social pitfalls of communities where people 55 and older have scant civic engagement and interaction with young people. He laments how the perennial village elders have become elders of The Villages, leaving their hometowns for a life of pickleball and golf."

"A lot of these people are, in a sense, dropping out of the larger society," Blechman said. "They can do this. It's legal and it's their right. It just calls a lot of things into question."

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