From Sun Cities to The Villages:
A History of Active Adult, Age-Restricted Communities

Judith Ann Trolander


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"A highly significant work that deserves the attention of urbanists, planners, sociologists of aging, and historians of post-1945 America."--Jon C. Teaford, author of The American Suburb

"A clear, concise historical perspective of the development of age-restricted, active adult communities and the developers who led the way. It provides the missing piece to the puzzle in housing studies for older adults."--Helen C. Dillon, University of Indianapolis

Youngtown, Arizona, opened in 1954 and was the first development community to have a minimum age requirement (then 65) and to ban underage children as permanent residents. Developer Del Webb unveiled Sun City six years later. Adjacent to Youngtown, it offered modest homes abutting a golf course. In the ensuing decades, active adult communities have proliferated, including Harold Schwartz’s "The Villages" in central Florida, today the nation’s single largest retirement community.

For nearly sixty years, the success of these and similar communities have changed the image of retirees from frail, impoverished old people to energetic, well-off adults enjoying a resort-like lifestyle. While some experts predicted these communities would fail or undermine the obligations between generations, they are now firmly embedded as one possible extension of the American dream.

Judith Ann Trolander has written the first book-length history of the "active adult" lifestyle. Examining the origins, development, failures, and challenges facing these communities as the baby boomer population continues to age, she offers a truly original defense of a sometimes controversial aspect of American life.

Judith Ann Trolander, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, is the author of Settlement Houses and the Great Depression and Professionalism and Social Change.

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"An intriguing discussion and defense of these communities. And excellent addition to any modern social history community library collection."
--The Midwest Book Review

"In a carefully researched text, Trolander lays out the historical development from Youngstown, Arizona, in 1954 to The Villages at present. . . . An important contribution to studies in housing, aging, and social trends. Highly recommended."
--Choice Vol 29 No 3

"Important and timely. It will appeal to a wide audience including historians, gerontologists, and urban planners, as well as baby boomers contemplating their own retirement."
--Journal of American History

"provides a sound introduction to its subject"
--The Journal of Southern History

"the first full history of these communities, from the snowbirds of the late nineteenth century, to the postwar landmarks of Sun City and Leisure World, and age-restricted communities today."
--Business History Review

“Fills a gap in the literature on ways that age-restricted, active adult communities were conceived, gained acceptance, and replicated themselves as an important post-World War II residential option.”
--Journal of Social History

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