Life in a trailer

This article (via Tyler Cowen) describes life in a senior citizen trailer park, where elderly persons cash out the values of their homes and move into a permanent trailer. Living is cheap, and the parks are quite a bit nicer than the stereotypical housing that begets the trailer trash stereotype.

The article pretends the phenomenon is new even while documenting that it has been around for decades. The parks seem viable in states like California and Florida – where climates are mild and even bad weather like hurricanes can be forecast a few days out. Not so good for Midwestern states, where every year wind and hail threaten to severely damage the property. The storms arrive with such suddenness that the occupants might not have time to escape.

My parents lived in one in the 1980s, in Zephyrhills, Fla. They liked it. It had a lively social scene, as the article portrays. When I visited – often (I lived in Miami) – they seemed happy there, as did most residents.

I always likened it to college life. You had a bunch of strangers from all over, thrown together because they happened to move into the same place at the same stage in their lives. They quickly realized their common social standing – most were middle-class Midwesterners in their mid-50s, living off defined-benefit pensions. (Won’t be seeing that sort anymore.) Freed from the social strictures of a hometown, they indulged a bit of age-adjusted rowdiness. If there was a dance at the clubhouse, for example, someone would spike the punch.

My parents moved out after about five years. As the article notes, the value of the home depreciates, which they did not like. Also, you own the home but rent the underlying property. The article mentions this, but probably should emphasize it, as my parents grew dissatisfied with that, too.

Maybe the new crop of seniors are used to seeing the value of their homes depreciate, so won’t have the objections my parents had.

They ended up in a single-family home in New Port Richey, also a senior community. They lived there a few years. Then they moved back to Illinois, where they had raised their kids. Moving “back home” for the final years is surprisingly common among snowbirds. My dad passed away in Illinois a decade ago. My mom, as some of you likely know, still lives there (92) and plans to remain.

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