Life of a Retirement Town - An Analysis

The problem - the town's main industry closes. Hundreds of working families are forced to move elsewhere to find work, leaving a glut of low-priced housing. Retirees from pricier regions move in to fill the vacuum, while older residents who have already retired stay put, gradually raising the median age of the community to 65+. The businesses connected to a developing household close - appliances, books, clothing - replaced increasingly by retirement services - health care and housing - and attempts to snag people passing through town - gas stations, fast food, and convenience stores.

While the older residents now foster book clubs and other social get-togethers, there is little interest in overall community planning or revitalization. When you retire into a place, you want it to stay that same place for the rest of your retirement, no drastic alterations. The town, isolated from any nearby cities or vibrant communities, receives no growth spillover or regular outside business. The lack of services for working families make new industries reluctant to move in, while the low income level of the town discourages new small business owners. The town is caught in a subtle but irresistible downward spiral.

Such is the situation with my most beloved hometown. The mill shut down in my high school days, and now, so many years later, the changes that continue to happen have followed this trend, and I, being no professional community coordinator, am at last able to grasp it. This is no longer the same town I grew up in. What is it like for the kids who are left?

The revitalization of my hometown has long been one of my dearest passions, and my ideas have ranged from the loony - an indoor tropical amusement/recreation center - to the plausible - (which I can't mention because I'm sure they'll end up on my loony list soon enough.) Unfortunately, I think some of the town's committee people have had some equally loony silver bullets, and since they're the ones in power we now have the Worlds Ugliest Fountain, which looks the wreckage of a fuselage, not exactly "gateway to a renaissance" material.

There is no one silver bullet to the problem. It all has to come at once, several little boosts, like the many puffs that float the puck on an air hockey table. But my town is notorious for shooting down positive ideas for no good reason at all other than "WE FEAR CHANGE!", and I'm just a tad discouraged that the same will continue to happen. I am doubly frustrated, because not only do I love my town for the biased reason of having grown up here, but I can also say after travelling the globe that we have one of the most charming, lush, and pleasant coastal locations in the world, yet no one seems to realize it. Instead of embracing this asset, the town council instead has considered trying to bring in an iron smelter, a steel factory, and a prison.

And so I sit here and ponder my own little revitalization schemes, and lose sleep over it.


bearded vet said...

I'm sorry about your home town K t. I sent some prayers your way...and to the town. Take care.

Kt said...

Thanks, b-v! Prayer is the solution I too often forget to turn to, so I'm grateful for yours. A problem like this makes digging the Panama Canal seem like a day at the beach. Bit extreme, but it sure feels that way.