Listen to Andrew Blechman on NPR's All Things Considered
From the author of Pigeons comes a first-handlook at America’s senior utopias, gated retirementcommunities where no kids are allowed.A
ndrew Blechman’s first book, the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Pigeons,
was a charming look at the much-maligned bird and the quirky subcultures that flock to it. In Leisureville,
Blechman investigates another subculture, but one with more significant consequences.
When his next-door neighbors in a quaint New England town suddenly pick up and move to a gated retirement community in Florida called “The Villages,” Blechman is astonished by their stories, so he goes to investigate. Larger than Manhattan, with a golf course for every day of the month, two downtowns, its own newspaper, radio, and TV stations, The Villages is a city of nearly one hundred thousand (and growing), missing only one thing: children. Started in the 1950s and popularized by Del Webb’s Sun City, age-segregated retirement is an exploding phenomenon. More than twelve million people will soon live in these communities, under restrictive covenants, with limited local government, and behind gates that exclude children. And not all of the residents are seniors, or even retirees.
Blechman delves into life in the senior utopia, offering a hilarious first-hand report on all its peculiarities, from ersatz nostalgia and golf-cart mania to manufactured history and the residents’ surprisingly active sex life. He introduces us to dozens of outrageous characters including the Villages press-wary developer who wields remarkable control over the community, and an aging ladies man named Mr. Midnight, with whom Blechman repeatedly samples the nightlife.
is more than just a romp through retirement paradise: Blechman traces the history of the trend, and travels to Arizona to show what has happened to the pioneering utopias after decades of segregation. He investigates the government of these “instant” cities, attends a builder’s conference, speaks with housing experts, and examines the implications of millions of Americans dropping out of society to live under legal segregation. This is an important book on an underreported phenomenon that is only going to get bigger, as baby boomers reach retirement age. A fascinating blend of serious history, social criticism, and hilarious, engaging reportage, Leisureville
couldn’t come at a better time.