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The Villages: Fascination and Machination

Category: Active adult communities

April 22, 2022 — Journalists looking for a good story hit the jackpot any time they check out The Villages, the giant retirement community in north Central Florida. The community has all the elements needed to fascinate readers: high stakes politics, real estate machinations, Viagra fueled Lotharios, and the latest – voter fraud. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening in this community that stretches over 3 counties with some 60,000 (and growing) households.

Books, Magazines, and Movies

Starting with Andrew Blechman’s Leisureville in 2009, The Villages gained a certain notoriety. Blechman’s youthful vantage point might have made him a little too cynical, but he did produce a good read. His account of Mr. Midnight, a boomer aged Lothario cruising for action among the community’s many single women, was highly provocative and one of the most entertaining parts of the book. He poked a lot of fun elsewhere too, although it actually might have encouraged other baby boomers to move there for the non-stop activities and socialization. Then there is The NY Times version of TV life, published in this March feature: The Disney for Boomers Puts Hedonism on Full Display.

The story that really put The Villages on the map is the one about its supposed rampant STD epidemic (now debunked). Any time the subject of The Villages (TV) in Central Florida comes up in conversation, the chances are that someone will chime in with the tidbit that the popular active community is the STD capital of the US. That started with a poorly phrased comment from a gynecologist, which was then taken out of context, and now quoted as fact by anyone with an opinion about the giant community. See The Villages – Fact or Myth: STD Capital of the World.

When it comes to movies about The Villages, there is the very depressing documentary, Some Kind of Heaven. It profiles the lives of four Villagers struggling for happiness while figuring out if they fit into the giant community. The movie is mostly from the perspective of a single person.

GOP stronghold and voter fraud

It is no secret that The Villages is a Republican bastion (although the community does have a big Democratic club, the largest in the state). Aspiring GOP candidates for office from around the country flock to the community looking for an adoring crowd and some good sound bites for Fox News. Gov. Desantis of FL clearly wants to keep its residents close, as he did when he made sure that the first vaccines available in late 2020 made their way to The Villages.

The most recent news concerns voter fraud, an important topic for the GOP. Last week two residents of The Villages were convicted of just that, voting twice. One of those convicted was a registered Republican and a Trump supporter, while the other had no party affiliation. Two other Republican residents of the community have been charged with voter fraud as well.

Rivals

Cotino Storyliving by Disney

As for rivals, The Villages definitely has one in the new chain of Jimmy Buffett inspired Margaritaville communities (Hilton Head, Daytona Beach, and coming soon – Watersound, FL). Just last month The NewYorker published a long article about the hedonistic lifestyles on display in the Daytona Beach Margaritaville: Retirement: The Margaritaville Way. There are other big active adult and retirement communities, but they are not quite as big nor do they have the mystique or reputation that The Villages seems to capture. For example, nearby On Top of The World and Sun City Center in Tampa both have very low profiles by comparison. Another potential rival with a very different pyschographic audience comes from, of all places, Disney. The huge entertainment juggernaut is developing Cotino Storyliving in Rancho Mirage, a complete community with live entertainment, hotel, restaurants, shops – and a 55+ neighborhood!

Real estate machinations

The Villages has many unique aspects, and one of the most intriguing is how it finances its growth. There has been controversy and conflict with the IRS over its use of Community Development Districts. These Districts are permitted by Florida law to let homeowners associations issue tax free municipal bonds as a way to finance infrastructure. Andrew Blechman’s book discusses the downside of these Districts for residents of The Villages, who ultimately pay for this infrastructure.

Bottom line

The Villages has a knack for generating publicity, good and bad. Overall it seems to be succeeding, as almost everyone seems to not only know about the community, but has a friend that lives there. It is worth checking out to see if The Villages is a good fit for you. They make it easy with good tours and affordable Stay and Play packages.

For further reading:
Does The Villages Have Any Large Competitors

Len and Ann Love The Villages

Comments? What are your thoughts about living in The Villages? Would you consider it, and if not, why not?

Posted by Admin on April 21st, 2022

9 Comments »

  1. “We’re interested in meeting other people. We like to have fun. We don’t want to be overly political. We like the idea of being happy.”

    I read Leisureville, and as much as I love a Disney bubble, the politics scared us away. The quote above is from an article about Latitude Margaritaville. I’d prefer that attitude when I change my latitude.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/03/28/retirement-the-margaritaville-way

    by Daryl — April 22, 2022

  2. There is no place on this earth like The Villages in terms of facilities and activities. It takes two pages of the daily newspaper to list the activities for the day. If you want to enjoy getting out and doing things, this is the place.

    by Bart — April 22, 2022

  3. For those interested in comments about the film “Some Kind of Heaven,” I posted mine shortly after the film debuted: https://www.topretirements.com/blog/active-adult-communities/movie-review-some-kind-of-heaven-is-more-more-or-is-less-more.html/

    by Larry — April 23, 2022

  4. What’s the min price a couple can buy a place there, and are there options to rent for say 4 month stays ?

    by keith — April 28, 2022

  5. The Villages was on my first draft of possible places to retire. I studied its real estate listings, HOA fees, insurance costs and taxes. I read Leisureville, and did research into the availability of medical care. The conservative politics and questions about the developer were definitely a huge concern for me. However, I was also intrigued by golf cart living and all of the possible activities. Then I signed up for the local newspapers and newsletters, started looking at public police reports, and monitored Villages-based chat groups online, including on Facebook. They were fascinating. I learned about the sinkhole problems, problems with houses that are abandoned when their owners become too ill to care for them or die, criminals targeting the large elder population, difficulties with medical care, some middle aged “children” with drug problems or criminal records moving in with their parents, resale values of the homes, neighborhood disputes and more. The Villages was one of the first destinations dropped off my list (I watched “Some Kind of Heaven” last year and found its snapshot of the community to be incredibly depressing). Ultimately, I’m very happy with my final decision to retire near family & grandkids, and despite snowy winters here.

    by Kate — April 28, 2022

  6. For a while I was determined to get a little piece of paradise consisting of golf cart living, three town squares with nightly entertainment, and more activities than summer camp, and watched many entertaining and enlightening videos by the couple below who enjoy their lives there. If you’re interested, here’s their current video talking about the true cost of living in The Villages.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ke_2KideXt4

    by Daryl — April 29, 2022

  7. Daryl:

    I watch Jerry and Linda’s show every week on Monday for the Question and Answers and then on Thursdays for whatever adventure they are pursuing. It is a very good channel and they are from Indiana originally (my home state too). I know that I will never live in The Villages, however, the topics they cover are also pertinent to my Aunt who lives in Naples in a golf course community. The videos are very entertaining as well…I love their dog, Gizmo!

    by Jennifer — April 30, 2022

  8. If you want something with lots and lots of amenities like villages, golf cart friendly and better weather… we just found SaddleBrooke Two in northern tucson. Up a little higher so cooler than Phoenix or Tucson and lots of trees vegetation and in foothills of mountains It was featured in a magazine on retirement and we found out some friends moved there. None of the one way drama of the villages. Or lack of different age groups or ideas. Seems very balanced with variety of people from all over the place.
    This site shows some of the amenities. https://saddlebrookecommunity.wordpress.com/

    by DenverDan — May 10, 2022

  9. Good Morning. Having a Social Life sure helped me in keeping the “Smile” So, yes; do think “The Villages” or similar is a a good thing! & do look forward to moving in. Period!!
    As really do wish to keep some “Lite” moments & good “Laffs” in my Life. Certainly makes the Day!!
    Cheers.

    by BillyBogey — May 17, 2022

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