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Leisureville: Adventures in a World Without Children Paperback – July 8, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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  • Leisureville: Adventures in a World Without Children
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  • Living Your Retirement Dreams and Growing Young in The Villages: Florida's Friendliest and Healthiest Hometown
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blechman (Pigeons) journeyed to the age-segregated community of the Villages, in central Florida, to explore the reality of America's geritopia phenomenon. A sprawling, relentlessly cheerful development carved out of 33 square miles of pastureland, where 75,000 residents age 55 and older tool around in golf carts, the Villages is one of the most successful master-planned gated communities for retirees in the country, along with the older models of Sun City and Youngtown in Arizona. As part of his research for this engaging book, Blechman ensconced himself with the Villages' residents for a month, attending club meetings and exploring plentiful amenities, frequenting bars teeming with lecherous seniors, and patiently listening to residents' stories of jettisoning their pasts in colder climes for this autocratic fantasyland. Adult active housing is the fastest growing sector of the market, and municipalities are eager to attract these safe, lucrative, childless retirement communities. However, the author confronts the troubling trend toward isolation and escapism, and ponders how different the aging boomers are from their parents—more diverse, more attached to cities and to their children, while resistant to the rules and regulations of a rigidly planned community. Ultimately, Blechman finds the residents blissful to be spared the friction and uncertainty of real life, yet, as one widow admits, There's a lot of sadness here. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Blechman describes this brave new world with determined good humor and considerable bemusement. He clearly disapproves of the whole thing, but accepts that for most residents living in these conditions is the fulfillment of a dream." ----Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Globe

"Blechman describes this brave new world with determined good humor and considerable bemusement. He clearly disapproves of the whole thing, but accepts that for most residents living in these conditions is the fulfillment of a dream." -Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Globe --The Boston Globe
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (July 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802144187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802144188
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have lived in The Villages since 2002 and I'm a Social Psychologist (PhD) and physician (MD). After reading a review of Blechman's book in the Boston Globe and seeing an editorial by him in the Los Angeles Times, I was prepared not to like his book and to write a scathing review. I've updated this review several times and you can read the latest updates at the end of the review.

After reading Leisureville, and personally knowing some of the people he interviewed, I find my opinion of his work to be somewhat mixed. There is much about his book that is well done. And there is much that is poorly done from the standpoint of even handed social science.

Blechman never claims to be a sociologist or psychologist or anything other than an author with a firmly entrenched point of view, viz.: age segregated communities are bad. He not only doesn't like The Villages (pop. c75,000)([...] he doesn't like Sun City either. He also doesn't like the lifestyle in retirement communities. He lets you know this in the first short chapter where he bemoans the loss of his neighbors who are moving to The Villages. By page 9, he asks "How could two bright individuals be drawn to something as seemingly ridiculous as The Villages?"

As you read through the book he tries to make the point that homogeneous communities without a diversity of age, class, lifestyle, interest, etc. are intrinsically bad. His last chapter is a summary of his position based on his non-scientific observations of The Villages, Sun City, and Youngville. Biased as his outlook is, there is still a lot in the middle that makes his book worth reading.

There are research data which support some of his positions. Homogeneous communities do not support tolerance and understanding.
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Format: Hardcover
"Leisureville" is an interesting view of a growing trend: age-restricted retirement communities. Author Andrew Blechman - not yet of retirement age - focuses mainly on the mega-retirement community of The Villages outside of Orlando, FL. Living amongst the natives, he offers a sociologists perspective on the pro's and con's of such manufactured communities, with their endless golf, amenities, sunshine, canasta and surprising amounts of geriatric sexual randiness.

Pro's and con's but .. it is clear that Blechman feels the cons predominate: no sidewalks, no diversity, no kids - an artificial Truman Show-like living arrangement that rings hollow. He decries the fact that these oldsters have tuned out from society, pursuing their own visions of retirement escapism from the problems of the world.

Though I understand where he is coming from, the beauty of a free society is that people can opt to choose this lifestyle or not. Choice is paramount. No one frog-marches oldsters to such communities or forces then to remain there if they find it suffocating. Most don't. Most of the characters in Leisureville seem to have few regrets. Life is full of tradeoffs.

Society says to old people, "It's all about youth - you don't matter!" Society worships youth and marginalizes older folks. Hedonistic escapism is hardly the sole province of the aged. Oh, I get it - it's OK for youth and the Lexus-obsessed middle aged. It's just not OK for grandma and gramps. Can we begrudge them if they heed society's marginalization by seeking their own version of community - even if from the vantage point of our youth or comfortable middle age, it seems like a vision of hell?

Maybe our - and Blechman's -- perspective will change once we are old enough to walk a mile in their shoes.
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Format: Hardcover
I had mixed feelings about this book, so I'm not surprised to see strongly
positive and negative reviews. On the one hand, it's an eye-opening and
fascinating introduction to retirement communities. Readers who don't know
how they began or just how vast and ambitious they can be will get a sense of
it here. For that alone, it's worth reading.

On the other hand, the author's disapproving view of these communities
undercuts his reporting and makes some of it unreliable. He states
forthrightly in Chapter One that he doesn't understand how seemingly bright
people could be drawn to something as undeniably kitschy as The Villages
(the community he focuses on). He never tries very hard to achieve
enlightenment on this key point.

At times, his tone is snarky. In numerous instances, when he asks a
question of inhabitants of The Villages, their fatuous response begins with
the word "Gosh." Is it really likely that so many different people spoke
that way? Or is that just how he heard them all? And are the activities at
The Villages mainly just line-dancing and bingo? Among the 75,000 residents
and hundreds of activity groups, he couldn't find one dealing with, say,
books or art?

He did manage to devote a section to the community's lone transsexual,
probably just to highlight the oddness of it amidst the kitsch. Fun reading
but not exactly balanced reporting.

More substantively, he seems to regard the senior citizens at these
childless, school-free, low-tax retirement communities as violators of a
social compact.
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