In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
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Like all pioneer settlements, however, Margaritaville is not just a place but an idea — an imagined utopia, in this case inspired by a Jimmy Buffett song’s reference to a frozen cocktail.Historically, such extreme aspirational-lifestyle experiments have had an outsize influence on our cultural imagination: It would be hard to call Jamestown, one cradle of our democracy, a practical project; same goes for the squalid boomtowns of the Gold Rush, which helped define the American dream. What intrigued me about Margaritaville was the specificity of its promise — a retirement based on music Buffett has described as ‘drunken Caribbean rock ‘n’ roll’ — and the fact that it is still under construction. I could actually meet the early colonists as they went about pursuing their vision.
…[B]uilding communities for seniors typically requires a special degree of staging. “Architects are basically set designers,” David Dillard, the president of D2 Architecture, a senior-housing firm, told me. “We fight to diminish any icons of this being a senior place. We literally hide things. Inside the community — this is part of our struggle — you don’t want to see your future.”
Or at least not the part that includes inevitable death, possibly preceded by mental or bodily deterioration. The problem is that in order to avoid considering those eventualities, we tend to avert our collective gaze from the future altogether — and in doing so, risk missing our opportunity to stage a more enjoyable and meaningful one. Consequently, our concept of senior housing is often dystopic: a quarantining of those who can no longer care for themselves and are of no “use” to society. To purchase a home in Margaritaville, on the other hand, is to aggressively reimagine the aging process as a ticket to an island paradise, which may prove to be willfully naïve or ingeniously farsighted — or both.
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “The Future of Aging Just Might Be in Margaritaville,” the New York Times Magazine, by Kim Tingley