The Paradise Next Door
“Why would I want to hear about death and destruction? I’d rather hear somebody made a hole in one yesterday.”
By Lance Oppenheim
Mr. Oppenheim is a filmmaker.
The Villages is a world of its own. About an hour north of Orlando, Fla., the huge retirement community — which is so large that it contains its own shopping, dining and health care facilities — has lured more than 130,000 seniors with meticulously groomed grounds and a simulacrum of American yesteryear. Residents are immersed in a self-contained society defined by free time, recreation and the blissful opportunity to ignore the outside world.
But as this senior utopia continues to expand, transforming adjoining pastures and wetlands into golf courses and tract housing, it also threatens the way of life of its neighbors, who may feel they have little choice but to sell their property and move. And Villages residents themselves are confronted with the very forces they have tried to ignore. Cracks, both literal and metaphysical, have upset the foundation of the community.
The short documentary above explores the psychological impact of living in a palm-fringed bubble, as well as the effects of overdevelopment on those living outside the white picket fence. Oppenheim’s feature-length documentary about The Villages, “Some Kind of Heaven,” is co-produced by The New York Times.
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