I'm in the most ignored demographic in America: Over-35, way over-35. At least until recently. Now marketers have noticed that maybe we 76 million aging baby boomers are worth selling to. And what they have been selling is the new brand category: Over-55. That might not be a good thing.
As of August 18th I became, thanks to marketing on local Connecticut TV Channel 8, a resident of Geezerville (my pet term for over-55 facilities). This housing has been custom-made for safety, convenience and community. And there is plenty of it sprouting up in all price ranges. For the over-55 who hadn't lost their nest egg in the 2000 stock market meltdown, the luxury version of geezerville can begin at $250,000 for a small townhouse with a balcony.
The question I have is: Will segregating us aging kill us off prematurely as well as deny society of our wisdom and nurturing?
I grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in downtown Jersey City, New Jersey. That forced my sisters and me to learn how to navigate a sea of different values, languages and, yeah, cooking odors. During all those Catholic school fundraisers I intuitively knew to use a custom-made pitch with each separate market segment. For selling the most subscriptions to THE NEWARK STAR LEDGER, I won a 3-speed bike. And when it was time to apply to college, I didn't need a $30,000 coach to tutor me on the best ways of presenting myself.
So, you got my vote for diversity. My colleagues in life and work who came of age in homogeneous suburbs never have been able to figure out the game and bounce back from setbacks as quickly as I. They seem to be hothouse flowers which can't make it in the chill of reality.
Ironically, the over-55 approach to living aggressively aims to promote community. Research, of course, shows that isolation will kill us or plenty of our gray matter. These complexes are full of group activities. When the leasing agent showed me around, she spared no effort in pointing out communal areas such as the dining room, the chapels, the movie room, the bingo hall. And just about every one of over-55 complexes has those contemporary versions of the perky activity leaders with their clipboards and whistles who are hyper-alert for signs of non-participation.
But the very fact that the population is so homogeneous - e.g. no children, no middle-aged - could be deep-sixing us and our brain cells faster than a bullet in the areas in which some of us used to live. The efforts to provide safety, convenience and community could be as well-intended and as potentially harmful as the welfare state.
My suggestion? Provide safe, convenient, community-oriented facilities for us geezers in non-age ghettos. It could do us good to be complaining about the children yelling and racing around. And, having a middle-aged neighbor lose a job is part of life. That neighbor could use our advice and contacts.