Growing younger: Repetition and regression

Retirement North America

The object of this study is a community of 80,000 retired people living in ‘The Villages’, a child-free ‘active adult retirement community’ in central Florida (USA). All property owners and most of the residents, bar a smattering of under-age partners and household members, are over 55 years of age. Others may visit, for limited periods, as monitored guests. Children and adolescents are not welcome. “Those under the age of 19 can visit for a MAXIMUM of 30 days a year but may not live with you permanently in your home.”

The social position of The Villages is unusual. Having retired, residents are no longer part of social production — the material base of every society. More unusually, in excluding children and youth from their community, The Villages is also not part of social reproduction — the other foundation of every society, being the bearing and raising of the continuing generation. The Villages, in simple effect, is a community of consumers without social obligation.

The Villages is investigated by way of textual interpretation. Representations of The Villages, mainly of its form and social life, are examined for ‘signifiers’. These signifiers are recognised by their ability to displace official meaning (assigned by communication) with an alternative context suggestive of other ‘meanings’ or significations (i.e., signifiers are recognised by their ability to, in a sense, free associate). In the development of a discourse of signifiers, manifest meaning is displaced in favour of a latent ‘other scene’ of desire.

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