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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Geritopia: the endless war between the Senior Citizens' Center and the rest of Randolph Township has gone national.

It has become increasingly clear to me that Sun City, the Villages, and thousands of other "voluntary ghettos" around the nation, are neither sustainable nor accountable. Rather, they are a fantasy, the product of a developer's profit-driven concept of "geritopia."

Sustainable communities aren't based on leisure. Living among a community of aging peers and golf courses may be comforting and a lot of fun, but a complex and functioning society demands cooperation between the generations.

No one can live in a bubble, regardless of how pleasant the initial experience may be. As Arizonans may remember, even Biosphere 2 eventually needed oxygen pumped in. Similarly, without new generations and reinvestment, and the constant renewal they bring, it is hard to imagine how these communities will survive, much less prosper over time.

And then there are the rest of us. After defeating 17 school-bond measures in 12 years, de-annexing from the local school system, and all the energy spent evicting "contraband children," Sun Citians can likely forget relying on the goodwill of their neighbors who often share a reciprocal bounty of distrust, anger and apathy. Shown in this light, Sun City's claim to fame - community service - rings rather hollow.

Life in the Villages is similarly premised: Seniors have taken control of their county's political machinery and have already begun closing parks for young families who live outside the gated community. As one Villager proudly told me without a trace of irony, "In the Villages we spend our tax dollars on ourselves."