The state of Florida is America's most popular and sought-after retirement destination, so much so that there are now numerous retirement communities all over the state. Almost 20% of Florida residents are retirees over 65, and their numbers continue to grow. Many more people are choosing to retire early, ready to enjoy their lives away from the pressures of work and establishing careers.
Vice's documentary "The Bubble" is about The Villages, the largest retirement community in Florida and all over the United States. It follows six retirees currently living in The Villages and examines what life is like living out their golden years within this exclusive community. From its humble beginning as a trailer park with a handful of residents in the 70s, The Villages now have over 150,000 residents living in an area larger than Manhattan and is also America's fastest-growing metro area.
The Villages offer senior citizens an idyllic retirement paradise. It is a master-planned development for the affluent retiree that provides not only homes but also swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and even a world-class hospital. However, you won't find a funeral home because this would be an unwelcome reminder of reality. Many activities are available, including dancing, cardio drumming, Tai chi, karaoke and more. They have their own newspaper and radio station, a FOX News affiliate, no less.
Living here is unique because it is an "age-restricted" community; only seniors are allowed. And though they may be old, with some feeling the usual infirmities of being elderly, these golf-cart-driving seniors are finally ready to party hard. They now put themselves first after years of working and sacrifice. There is so much to do that many don't even have time for families to visit! It seems like a wonderful place, devoid of the usual loneliness and ageist prejudices many older people feel in today's society.
But then, on the flip side, and in this case literally the other side of the fence, the Villages brings some rather uncomfortable realities. Rapid development has taken over as the community expands, giving original residents a hard time, with many just deciding to sell. What was once pastures and bucolic countryside is now a network of pastel cookie-cutter homes devoid of nature of any kind.
And while the”inmates” of The Villages are happily retired in their self-proclaimed "bubble", residents from the surrounding counties are anxious as public roads are now gated, they consume too much water, and now have a growing amount of regional control. The residents are also almost 100% white Republicans, many members of the NRA and passionate Trump supporters, and though not explicitly expressed, the vibe is they'd like to keep it that way. They also don't appreciate criticism against their community.
"The Villages" is a fascinating study of how ageism, family, sociopolitical issues, and the basic human need for community intersect and collide.
Directed by: Valerie Blankenbyl