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Nostalgic America and The South Florida Elderly Consumer

This morning I am heading home from a visit with my parents at the Colony Point retirement community in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

It is the second largest (next to Century Village) in the area – located in South Florida, which is home to a disproportionate amount of the East Coast’s elderly population. Why? I have pondered this before from a Sienfeldian perspective – being part of the “tribe” of young Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y Jews who’s Northeastern born-and-raised parents migrate to South Florida for retirement. I think it’s actually mandated in the Torah.

But most likely it’s the warm weather, low cost of living and non-existent state income tax that make living one’s golden years off of a fixed retirement and social security income more manageable. Not to mention the promise of lots of people “like you” being there to share the experience and create a sense of community.

In any case, we had a fairly typical visit: time spent going out to eat, watching television, eating, watching more television, more eating, and so on.

Because I had an earlier (ish) flight my father agreed to take me to the airport and we stopped at his daily breakfast spot: Bogart’s Bagels. He comes here every morning – sometimes with my mother but mostly by himself. He calls his two favorite waitresses “Laverne and Shirley” (which might be their actual names) and they call him “Mel”. His name is Sandy but they are playing the “name that 70’s sitcom” game.

The walls in this place have posters and paintings and pictures of Rat Pack era pop culture icons like Marilyn Monroe and (you guessed it) Humphrey Bogart. The floors, walls, tables and ceilings are all well overdue for a coat of shellac but the prices are low and the room full of new parents and their toddlers, elderly Jews and on duty police officers seem perfectly content with their home-away-from home routine.

As my dad was paying the $7 check for both of our breakfasts my anthropological eye spotted a cultural artifact I couldn’t pass up: a free copy of Nostalgic America Magazine: Broward and North Miami edition.

On the cover: a bright-eyed, in-her-prime glam shot of Lucille Ball – legendary star of the I Love Lucy show from the dawn of the American TV Renaissance.

As I flipped through the pages on our way to the airport I was fascinated to find that he content of this periodical roughly resembled a teen-oriented magazine – only obviously meant to inspire find memories of a youth and consumer-oriented adulthood lived in the mid to late 20th century. So, instead of mini/posters of Biebers there are full page promo shots of TV characters and cast photos from popular shows like Dennis the Menace, The little Rascals, Lassie and The Brady Bunch. There are also images of iconic athletes like Joe Namath and featured editorial images from National Geographic Magazine “back in the day”.

And the advertisements that make up the other half of the content are not for zit cream and bubble gum and movies but for Elder care facilities, an array of medical services and elder-friendly electronics.

It’s a publication entirely devoted to mitigating the uncomfortable physical reality of old age with blasts from the past that remind their consumer of “the good times” – which essentially come down to memorable consumer media.

Oh and I forgot to mention – it’s definitely content targeted only to white people.

From an anthropological perspective – this tells me that the presumption about this consumer target is that they have already lived their lives and it’s basically crisis management and distraction from here. It’s a reflection of the value we culturally place on the elderly as a populace to be babysat and managed. It makes me think about the many conversations i have had with my non-white friends and other cultural observation and analysis I have done. For some reason, we white folks tend to send our elderly away to live on their own in heir old age rather than caring for them and valuing their wisdom and having the be a daily part of our children’s lives. I joke that you never see Latino’s or Asians in old folks homes.

But I suppose that’s a conversation for another time and perhaps my analysis is a bit one sided. I’ll leave that to the rest of the bloggers to comment on. 🙂

But by way of sharing my observations, here is a sample of ten cultural content in this media artifact called Nostalgic America Magazine:
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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Ethnography, Jewish Culture, Participant Observation, sociology, Television and Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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