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Retirement Communities

The Political Economy And Retirement Communities

Retirement communities are integrated in the governmental and economic systems and they shape the environment in which the communities are embedded. On the local level, the linkage between a retirement community and the adjacent city or surrounding country varies considerably. How are land use law and zoning regulations enforced? Does the retirement community have its own water and sewer system or does it use the services provided by a municipality or water/sewer district? Uncertainty and risk are involved in the development and operation of retirement communities. They do serve a broad spectrum of income levels, and retirement communities are also congruent with basic American values: thrift, self-reliance, independence, material comfort, and a mixture of freedom and conformity.

In both LORCs and CCRCs the residents expect the delivery of programs, services, activities, and the security that was promised. They may register complaints about the services and programs, and they do so. In CCRCs it is very difficult for residents to take their business elsewhere for they would lose some or all of their initial deposit. This lack of a genuine market force for the residents is one reason some states have created social control mechanisms to ensure the delivery of services, and to avoid the exploitation of older people. The residents lack of market ‘‘freedom’’ does not mean that the managers operate in social and economic environment devoid of risk and uncertainty. Looking to the future of retirement communities raises the important issue of how the baby boomer generation will be involved in retirement communities. The first cohort is now ten or fifteen years from traditional retirement. Baby boomers are not homogeneous and one must consider the variations in economic, political and social characteristics. However, when the baby boom generation retires, the small percentage that chooses to relocate will have a wide choice of retirement communities. New environments will probably be initiated and there will be a competitive situation in which particular communities will compete. A changing economic and political situation adds uncertainty to the level and stability of pension incomes. The behavior of the housing and equity markets also adds additional uncertainty to the housing choices and the future of retirement communities for the boomers.

Additional topics

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