First-time documentary filmmaker Lance Oppenheim travels along the pristine, palm-tree-lined streets of The Villages in central Florida, America’s largest retirement community (approx. 180,000), often promoted as “Disneyland for Seniors.”
Founded by Michigan businessman Harold Schwartz in the mid-80s, his utopian vision was “to create a warm, beautiful, secure and friendly community where all your retirement dreams come true.”
“Coming here is like going off to college,” one resident says. “You get to be who you really are.”
That’s probably true IF you’re healthy and have a good relationship with a partner to share your customized golf cart, along with enough money to spend.
Problem is: everyone doesn’t – and Oppenheim, along with cinematographer David Bolen, peeks behind the facade of several of those whose lives are far from idyllic.
Anne and Reggie Kincer have been married for 47 years, and Anne’s having trouble coping with Reggie’s deteriorating grip on reality, increasing dementia and dependency on drugs. He’s currently awaiting his day in court on cocaine-possession charges.
Barbara Lochiatto is a widow, working full-time as a rehab center administrator. She moved to The Villages from Boston with her husband, who subsequently died. Now, she is desperately lonely, confessing: “It’s not the fantasyland I thought it would be.”
And peripatetic Dennis Dean is an 82 year-old bachelor, living out of a van, hustling wealthy woman for a place to stay – hopefully with someone who won’t mind that he’s fleeing a DUI arrest warrant in California.
What’s glossed over/never mentioned is that billboards along I-75 tout the good times/good life there, amid myriad golf courses, swimming pools, and shopping centers but neglect to allude to the STD rate, one of the highest in the country.
FYI: The Villages’ demographics work out to 98.3% Caucasian, 0.8% Asian, 0.3% African-American, 0.1% Native American and 1.8% Hispanics/Latinos/Pacific Islanders.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Some Kind of Haven” is a sadly surreal 7. A fascinating place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.