Would you retire in a Disney-themed community?

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If the recent spate of theme-park-esque retirement homes are to be believed, bingo nights are about to go the way of the dodo. Baby Boomers are reaching peak-retirement age — 57-75 — and the retirement industrial complex thinks they want something more than shuffleboard and bingo nights — a lot more.

 

The most recent entry into this arena is Disney Parks, which announced in February, that it has plans to launch a Disneyfied community, dubbed “Storyliving by Disney.” 

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The first complex, “Cotino,” will be located in the appropriately named Rancho Mirage, California, in the Coachella Valley. The brand’s pitch: “You can be part of Disney all of the time.”

 

Um, yikes?

 

The complexes will have some neighborhoods for over 55 members; the rest of the complex will open to the public. There will be a hotel, a 24 acre “grand oasis featuring the clearest turquoise waters” with Crystal Lagoons technology, a shopping district, and just about anything you can need without leaving the premises, which sounds both convenient and suffocating.

 

Related:  7 retirement mistakes to avoid at all costs

 

Though designed by Disney, it won’t be run or built by the company. And strangely, the press release says that “Disney cast members trained in the company’s legendary guest service will operate the community association,” which spurs images of Mickey Mouse and Goofy running the neighborhood block association. Like other retirement communities, there’s a range of homes, and a range of prices (though one could surmise that these will all cost a pretty penny as the average cost of retirement communities hover around $4300). If the retirees opt-in to club membership they will have more benefits to living in this somewhat strange mini-city. Disney aims to make Cotino a “living painting,” by which they mean combining the raw beauty of the Valley with the pristine and artificial creations of Disney itself.

 

Unsurprisingly, the public reaction was not kind: YouTube comments likened the park to a Black Mirror episode, the dystopian science fiction show, The Truman Show, and comparisons to a cult. Twitter was alight with funny memes:

 

Disney Tweet

StoryLiving Tweet

Storyliving isn’t Disney’s first stab at a planned community. Back in the nineties, the company launched Celebration, Florida, an entire town designed and run by Disney. Billed as a utopia that would uphold Disney’s values and perfect small town aesthetics, it quickly turned creepy. The guidelines for the houses were overly strict as each home owner had to meet the exacting standards of the company; at the same time, many of the homes were afflicted with shoddy construction. The opening of the school was a catastrophic failure: principal and several teachers quit the first year.  And as the years wore on, crime and accidents began to happen inside utopia: the lake they built had poor signage and people drove into it unknowingly and drowned; there were a couple of murders, and a murder-suicide. In the 2000s, the company sold it to an investment firm; pocketing a half bil, and ridding itself of a public relations nightmare.

 

Disney’s retirement community follows on the heels of another theme-park retirement space—Jimmy Buffett’s $1 billion project, Latitude Margaritaville (“Your new home in PARADISE”) which launched in 2017 to satisfy that burning need to be drunk on margaritas and live la vida loca in a manufactured tropical setting. There are three locations: Daytona Beach, FL, Hilton Head, SC, and Watersound, FL. Buffett lives on one of the properties, and the advertising dangles the carrot that the man himself will show up one night and play.

 

If you are the type of person who loves all-inclusive resorts on vacation, then an all-inclusive resort-like permanent existence may be appealing. For the rest, it’ll be like a bunker—a very sunny and tropical bunker.

As the New York Times’ Kim Tingley wrote: “Our concept of senior housing is often dystopic: a quarantining of those who can no longer care for themselves and are of no “use” to society. To purchase a home in Margaritaville, on the other hand, is to aggressively reimagine the aging process as a ticket to an island paradise, which may prove to be willfully naïve or ingeniously farsighted — or both.”

 

[beat]

 

These are just two corporate branded communities featuring a one-stop, immersive sunset of life experience, but this attempt to make senior living more engaging and lively is not new, and it’s growing each year. The Boomer generation is also the Flower Power generation and those sixties hippies are still interested in an alternative lifestyle. Enso Village, a “Zen-inspired life plan community” is aimed at those who espoused peace and love and are still pursuing an expansive mind-body experience.

 

Located in Sonoma Valley’s wine country in Healdsburg, California, the community —which just broke ground—promises a mindful aging experience. It’s the result of a partnership with the San Francisco Zen Center and Kendal, a Quaker-based retirement community. Forget bingo, there’s yoga, Tai Chi, meditation halls, and a tea room. (Don’t forget to bring the ‘shrooms.)

Cotino concept image

It seems there are niches for just about everyone—especially the ultra-rich who can retire in New York for a very affordable $20,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, where they can get high-end gourmet meals at any night of the week.

 

Artists who wish to be surrounded by other artists and their art can join a rental community in the NOHO (North Hollywood) neighborhood. There, they can live inside a perma-artist residency, complete with a visual artist studio (paint!), a literary studio (write!), an artist’s lounge with a piano (relax!), and a pool and billiards room. Also, in the building: a small theater space.

 

Even without Storyliving, the Disneyfication of community was already underway. While these carefully crafted utopias seem like a one-stop solution to aging needs—the thing they are most mimicking occurs in almost any densely populated city: community. In cities, where you regularly go to the bodega or deli, or live in a tight-knit apartment complex, this comes naturally. For many retirees who are living in suburbs, living in a “community” is ancient history. It’s the mirage of control that appeals; it’s willful ignorance of the inevitable.

 

In the Times piece, the writer asks one of the retirees: “I wondered if there was a chance that the feeling of being on a perpetual vacation would get old after a while?” The retiree replied: “Only if you do.”

 

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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Disney World is known to house many secrets to keep the park alive and magical. Here are 36 of my favorite things about the park.

 

 

smckenzie / istockphoto

 

When Disney first opened, feral cats would sneak onto the grounds and catch the mice that inhabited the parks. Instead of fighting the problem, Disney embraced it.  During the day, up to 200 cats are lounge around on their own special feeding stations.  At nights, the cats are let out to keep the grounds free of mice.

 

And the cats are well cared for, too. Males and females are spayed and neutered, and any kittens that join the family are put up for adoption.

 

aureliefrance / istockphoto

 

Jump on one and see what music it plays! Hint: the sounds correspond with the instruments on the fountain these covers surround.

 

 

Matt Walker / Flickr

 

At least not with a single finger, as it’s considered rude in some cultures. Most often, they gesture with two fingers or a sweeping hand.

 

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Next time you’re there, see how many you can find!

 

 

philinnz4 / istockphoto

 

This not only helps keep characters from being in the wrong “land” (i.e. a Cowboy in Tomorrowland) but prevents guests from seeing two of the same characters (i.e. two Cinderellas) at once during a shift change.

 

 

Manakin / istockphoto

 

Another small piece of evidence the attention to detail in the parks. Each night, the highly touched hitching posts are stripped and repainted so they look fresh the next morning for the next round of guests.

 

In fact, the starting time these posts are painted is based on the humidity and temperature to ensure they’re dry in the morning and no one gets sticky fingers.

 

George / Flickr

 

Designed to give a fun experience for all, pick an orange teacup with diamonds if you want to spin fast and pink one with hearts if you want to go slower.

 

 

ugajewel / Flickr

 

They study the animals and their behaviors. One one trip to Africa, they discovered a special call elephants make in relation to alerting each other about bees.

 

 

awl11 / Flickr

 

The stones near the bottom of the castles are larger than the stones at the top. This optical illusion gives observers the appearance that the castle is actually taller. This effect is also used on the Haunted Mansion and buildings on Main Street.

 

 

EnchantedFairy / iStock

 

If you’re lucky and ask the right person, you may just get a private tour.

 

 

BR WDW / Flickr

 

For example, at the Polynesian Hotel, Polynesian plants are used to create a true and authentic feel of being on the Polynesian Islands. At the Wilderness Lodge, moose tracks and large, native vegetation are used to create a cooler environment, like you’re out west.

 

 

john koenig * / Flickr

 

Hand stitching and fabrics relevant to a specific period in time is used to create authenticity. To add, gold thread is used on relevant costumes to create a special sparkle. This not only gives each character extra pride in what they’re wearing, but rings true that attention to detail is everything.

 

 

smckenzie / istockphoto

 

If you’re polite and ask nicely, you may be able to drive the Mark Twain Steamboat. While it’s technically on rails, it’d still be fun to spin the wheel and ring the bell!

 

 

Scott Barlow / Flickr

 

Walt believed the future would be self-sustaining, so each plant is edible.

 

Public Domain

 

Whether a guest is lost, needs a family photo or a child drops an ice cream cone, cast members are encouraged to help whenever and however possible to each guest has a wonderful and magical time at the park.

 

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

It’s been said that Disney was disgusted over how dirty theme parks and festivals were. He made a point to watch how far people carried trash before dropping it. The magical number? 30 steps.

 

 

tastemaven / Flickr

 

Kodak did a study with Disney and painted the ground to make each photo appear more vivid.

 

 

Matthew Cooper / Flickr

 

Why? To help disguise the intent of his grandiose plans. Today, you can find the names of these fictitious companies, like Tomahawk Properties, Compass East Corporation and Bay Lake Properties, throughout the park – cleverly disguised as store and shop names.

 

 

adameq2 / DepositPhotos

 

Dressed in common civilian clothes, these sneaky officers monitor the safety and well-being of park-goers without disturbing the magic.

 

 

cholprapha / iStock

 

Designers and engineers determined an oil rig was one of the strongest structures and thus used it for this attraction.

 

 

James Palmer / Flickr

 

Yes, there’s a secret basketball court on the third level- how cool is that?

 

 

Aneese / iStock

 

For the record, this has and never will be allowed at Disney. Yet it still hasn’t stopped people from trying.

 

 

Russell102 / iStock

 

If you look closely, the time is correct too.

 

 

Joe Penniston / Flickr

 

  1. It’s a Small World
  2. Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  3. Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade
  4. The Hall of Presidents
  5. Mad Tea Party
  6. Peter Pan’s Flight
  7. Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  8. Swiss Family Treehouse
  9. Jungle Cruise
  10. Country Bear Jamboree
  11. Walt Disney World Railroad
  12. The Haunted Mansion
  13. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
  14. Tomorrowland Speedway

 

Rick Vink / Flickr

 

Originally intended to be an apartment for Walt Disney, it’s now only used for special promotions and giveaways, so don’t expect to be able to book it for a night while staying at the resort.

 

 

Chris Dikos / Flickr

 

This is another way to help keep the park clean and free of gum being stuck to its masterful pieces, streets, and rides.

 

 

Mark Walter/ Flickr

 

Next time you’re at the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, you’ll notice a faint, yet obvious smell of salty air. On Main Street, you may smell baking cookies or vanilla.

 

 

RK*Pictures / Flickr

 

Hmmm tasty, right? Thankfully, I don’t believe they use smellitizers here…

 

 

Mickey Views / Flickr

 

Talk about a huge electric bill – for one street alone!

 

 

Eat My Disney Dust / Flickr

 

Unless a mustache or beard is fully grown before being hired or grown while away on vacation, men cannot have stubble or facial hair.

 

 

Jodi Renshaw / Flickr

 

There’s only two places an adult can get a cocktail: one is the Little Mermaid-themed restaurant, and the other is a super secret speakeasy, Club 33. But don’t expect to bop in there for a quick drink – there’s a ten year waiting list. Open since 1967, the club costs $10,000 a year and has a $25,000 initiation fee per person.

 

 

Justin Barton / Flickr

 

They’re more perky and peppy in the morning and more mellow in the evening to match the moods of their guests.

 

 

Disney Dan / Flickr

 

As a child, he sold guidebooks then later advanced to working at the Magic Shop.

 

 

MichaelGordon1 / iStock

 

When first opened to the public, fake skeletons look well, rather fake. Replacements were ordered, all issues from a medical institute that had been used for study. According to Buzzfeed, there’s still a real skull there today.

 

 

David Bjorgen / Wikimedia Commons

 

There are approximately 28,000 cast members that work at Disneyland.

 

 

Ron Thorp / Flickr

 

Fans can stay up to date with the current news, events, and activities via By The Numb3rs.

 

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Courtesy Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

 

 

Viktoriia Hnatiuk / istockphoto

 

Featured Image Credit: Courtesy Image: StoryLivingByDisney.com.

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