Life in the 80s: Century Village, Florida

At the Pool

At the Pool

According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, “[B]y adding an average of 803 new residents each day between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014, Florida passed New York to become the nation’s third most populous state.” This mirrors migration trends coming from Central and Latin America. Although, one could *almost* believe that part of the migration tendency is a result of retirees’ movement to the land of sun, oranges, and the beach.

Over the Rainbow

Over the Rainbow

There are four Century Village “retirement” communities (for people 55 years or older) in South Florida. Built in the 1980s, they are in Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Pembroke Pines, and West Palm Beach. The residents at Century Village are extremely homogeneous with a racial makeup of 98.41% White (95.6% Non-Hispanic White and most with English as their mother-tongue) according to the 2000 census. Demographics are clearly changing fourteen years later, though. For instance, there has been an influx of younger Quebecois with a population of over 2000, in Deerfield Beach. Those who live here feel safe. As I take my morning walk around this “village” where my parents are staying, I am surrounded by both vital seniors (some well into their late 80s and early 90s) as well as those who face physical or mental challenges. Many still live with their partners but others confront and struggle with loss and death.

My parents joined their friends in the Century Village, Deerfield Beach, in 2000. They are all over seventy years of age and most are “snowbirds” who are thrilled to get away from northern winters of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. They enjoy the warmth of the sun and go for daily walks around the grounds. There are pools, a community centre (with cultural and art activities and a gym), and opportunities to meet new people. The beach is a ten-minute car ride away. The community has just about everything those living here could want.

At the Volleyball Court

At the Volleyball Court

This coming February my mother will turn 86. My dad, who is 85, has had multiple small strokes which have led to a degree of dementia (he also is diabetic, has heart issues, and other ailments that are not unusual for a North American man of his age). My mom is his sole caregiver. At home in Montreal she can walk, take buses, the metro, or taxis to get around and my sister and her partner help her out as much as possible. In Florida, it is more difficult since she does not drive (it’s virtually impossible to get from place to place without a car in Florida). So, I volunteered to join her here for three months, to drive, cook, help clean, and keep my father occupied with walks and scrabble games, which he is still able to enjoy and even win on occasion.

My mother is in good health as are many of her friends. Together, they go to movies, the opera, and out to eat. However, the reality is that because of my father’s decline my parents are left out on occasion and are sometimes lonely as a result. My mother tries to get out with or without my dad. Friends seem to not call or drop by like they used to and I believe the reason for this is the fact that my father is not healthy, cannot hear well, cannot remember well, and cannot carry on a conversation. He is no longer the funny, smart, quick-tongued, articulate, and engaging man he once was. Plainly put, he is old and despite retaining a great sense of humour and good attitude, he can be difficult to be around when he is not silent and in his own world.

My father exhausts and worries my mother for obvious reasons. She has not only him to care for but herself and their household as well. He is dependent on her to give him his medication, take him to doctor appointments, keep his daily routine on track, give him his meals, monitor his extreme between-meal nibblings (one of many symptoms related to the dementia), take him for walks, take care of the bills, etc. None of this is atypical as we get older.

For better or worse, decrepitude is in the cards should we live to a ripe old age. My father’s movement toward infirmity means that during my sojourn in Century Village I must confront the process of aging and deterioration without averting my gaze. My goal, while here, is to get to know some of the residents, photograph them and their surroundings, and explore and tell the story of how they live here, learn about their community, and how they have come to grips with the process of aging and being at the edge of North American society.

The Grounds

The Grounds

The Grounds

The Grounds

Building F

Grantham F

The Grounds

The Grounds

At the Pool

At the Pool

 

9 thoughts on “Life in the 80s: Century Village, Florida

  1. rsheffer

    So totally identify with some parts of this.It is difficult for me to see the decline in my Dad too who was once such a witty,lively and busy person.He is still in there,but because of hearing and general decline and loneliness of missing my mother of course he is not he same at 92 as he was at 60.However he is still able to come back with a bit of repartee and a joke at times and I can see the man inside the man. Love your photos as always.

    Reply
    1. Tamar Granovsky Post author

      yes — it is always a surprise and a pleasure to see the man inside the man come back, even if it is ever so brief a visit. i understand. so many of us are now grappling with similar issues. and many have lost parents. at first i was reticent to write about this intimate subject but it is the only way for me to look at it — head on. and now i want to try to really understand what my parents’ generation is going through, try to see with their eyes and hearts,as best as i can. thus the interviews and photo essay i will begin shortly.

      Reply
  2. Tamar Granovsky Post author

    very nice post, hun! I’d read the text in an earlier stage. Here’s to decrepitude! It’s all downhill from here! 😉

    I really really liked the first pool photo, and the tree photo is one you should be proud of. Father’s daughter! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Janet Fortunato

    Tamar, I feel your pain. My mother had Alzheimer’s Disease. Your parents are lucky that you are able to be there for them, especially to give your mother a little break. I wish you the best. Happy New Year to you and your family for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

    Reply
    1. Tamar Granovsky Post author

      i do not think i have ever known about her alzheimer’s. that could not have been easy. at all. as my father has declined i have vowed to spend more time ehlping out and being with my parents. if i were still working i would have taken leave without pay, if had to. life is very short. i hope you are better. healthy, in fact. drop an email rather than continue on this forum. or leave a fb message. happy new year. —

      Reply
  4. daktari164

    Thanks Tamar for being so frank, open, courageous about your family life and your thoughts. Its a great post, very much thought provoking. And I love the photo with the two trees, telling the story within the story.

    Learning once again how different our approaches are, in the States and in (Central) Europe. Hard to imagine to have comparable retirement communities (although some exist) in Germany or neighbouring countries. There is a three-tier system, one the traditional institutional care ‘old people’s homes’. The other one is – rapidly expanding – the ambulatory health and social care with the objective keeping people as long as ever possible in their life-long living environment where they have social and cultural ties. The third is the creation of ‘mixed generation communities’ when constructing new town quarters or housing areas. Having old and young and middle-aged people living in the same buildings, quarters, sharing physical and social spaces, doing things together and leave space for others, is what I personally favour. Accommodating of what people with special needs (like people living with dementia) require for a better quality life (from architecture to special care) and at the same time what their caring relatives need, are important aspects of home-care-based and mixed generational models.

    There is one point in your text, which I am not sure about. This is when you write that …. these communities provide for everything inhabitants could possibly want. Yes, as far as shelter, food, safety, warmth, all these biological needs are concerned, these are great places. How about the more complex needs in the ‘needs pyramid’: love and belongings self-esteem, or self-actualization: being a creator, not just a beneficiary, of the world we live within?

    Admiring you for your courage and strength to walk this stretch of road with your parents, uncompromisingly, with both an emotional and with an artist’s lens.

    Reply
    1. Tamar Granovsky Post author

      thank you for your long and thoughtful reply. in north america we only one of your three tiers — the first… we are missing the “the ambulatory health and social care with the objective keeping people as long as ever possible in their life-long living environment where they have social and cultural ties.” the third one that you talk about is similar to where my parents come down to in the winter– what you call the “mixed generation communities.” in north america there is also a third option – a home where people may live in their own apartments with a small kitchen but with a communal dining room where residents usually eat. there are social/cultural opportunities there, too. should a person need medical care, it is available but those living in these “homes” are predominantly independent, if not wholey so. but, should/when the time comes that need care, it is there for them. this comes at a cost, of course. so…. Century Village, comes the closest…. and it is the one place where the residents can actually get: “love and belongings self-esteem, or self-actualization: being a creator, not just a beneficiary, of the world we live within” – as you mention. the other two options do not offer these possibilities – which is very sad, indeed.

      Reply
    1. Tamar Granovsky Post author

      thank you. the next post will be another general one – more photographs of the surroundings. interviews begin next week and we shall see where they take us…

      Reply

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