Aventura’s Family Separation Issue Print
Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
July 2018

Let’s look in the mirror and reconsider some of those 55+ housing rules

Tbigstock--190796638he latest tempest making most of our media teapots whistle, with Congressional opportunists racing to catch up, is the policy of separating families at the border in instances of attempted illegal entry or extended asylum requests by the parents.

No one likes the practice, few defend it, and most of the political arguments center around whether Trump started it, or whether it’s been practiced to one degree or another since Janet Reno’s tenure as attorney general in the Clinton administration.

It seems pretty clear that this has been around for a while, but that it is being intensified under the current administration, and that a significant consensus has emerged to put a stop to it once and for all.

Putting aside the immigration aspect of this, it is fascinating to see that society rebels viscerally against family separation. Somehow, after two centuries of free love movements, the breakdown of marriage, increases in births out of wedlock, and almost a million abortions a year, the notion that children need to be together with their parents -- and perhaps also the notion that parents need to be together with their children -- seems to be surviving fairly intact, despite all the putative erosion of the family unit.

All of this raises a question about life in Aventura and its environs that we have been ignoring for a long time. You see, it’s a common practice here to build apartment houses or developments with compacts that allow purchase or rental only by people above the ages of 50 or 55. The laws as written are allowing an institutional system of reverse age discrimination, so that older people can tell younger people they no longer have patience for their exuberance and noise, or for children and teens racing around chasing each other, throwing balls to each other, playing loud music, and having boisterous parties around the pool.

Not only are older people telling a younger generation that they are not welcome, they are also telling other older people that their younger family members are not welcome either.

If the 55-year-old neighbor suddenly brings his 30-year-old divorced daughter home to find herself, and she’s accompanied with a four- and a six-year old, you’ll hear complaints reverberating around the housing complex. Meetings will be called, votes will be taken, angry screeds will be circulated, arcane rules will be cited, lawyers will be engaged (often with association funds), and unpleasant confrontations may ensue.

Ironically, those confrontations will often reach an energy and noise level, and include impulsive and thoughtless behavior, reminiscent of…well, a pack of children.

Again, the law as written supports this kind of self-contained, self-governing gaggle of geezers keeping out the geysers of giggles that children bring. The question is whether as a society we should support such laws or whether they are intrinsically inappropriate and should be reformed.

Let’s paint the opposite scenario. We put up a nice tall building with luxurious condos, or we set up a charming development of one-family houses, and we establish a compact that no one over age 40 may purchase or rent any of the units. Not only that, but a young couple may not bring Grandma or Grandpa to move into their home. After all, the old folks are amply provided with housing options of their own that exclude the young ’uns. I think it’s fair to predict that people would be horrified or, at the very least, react very negatively to such a proposal.

Or let’s even posit that a reasonable person will accept the idea that, yes, if we let there be compacts for 55-and-over, we have to accept compacts for 40-and-under as well. That all leads to a very weird segregation of American life, where the young people are in their own enclaves and the elderly are in theirs. And how long before this would be seen as an offense against the elderly, “forcing” them into “ghettos”, ostracizing and isolating them from the regular rhythm of activity and daily life?

Much as we do not like to face this aspect of things, these setups are a form of family separation that we practice every day among homegrown American citizens, without immigration playing a role. We permit old people to band together to exclude the young, and we look the other way because we think of the old as a weaker class that needs special help like Medicare. But under the banner of protecting the aged, we may well be damaging them by preventing younger family members from moving in to assist them.

As a good general principle, any setup that allows one crotchety group to exclude another based on real or imagined annoyances is corrosive to a free society. And any set of expectations foisted on an entire group or class of people -- whether based on age or on race, religion or creed -- is poisonous. Even so elementary an observation as “young people make more noise and old people are more sensitive to noise” is a dangerous arbiter of public policy.

It seems fair to say that the way to succeed long term as a healthy and unified society is by avoiding segregation in any form. There’s of course some inevitable segregation by income levels-- million-dollar houses will attract millionaires -- but that is evolutionary, and even that must be monitored carefully. But other than that, we have to be able to live together and tolerate the annoyances that come along with this reality. We may not appreciate the dress habits of some or enjoy the smells that waft out of the neighbor’s kitchen, but as long as there is no abusive and inappropriate behavior, we are called to practice tolerance.

None of this will affect “old-age homes,” which are occupied almost exclusively by the elderly. Their doors are open to all whose infirmity requires a particular quality of care, and young families with kids are typically not customers for that sort of thing. But to prevent people of a certain age from purchasing real estate and establishing normal residence seems like a bad idea.

I, too, am in the age group that resides in these kinds of buildings and developments, and I understand the motivation behind setting up this kind of community. But we need to take a long hard look at this as a society, and to reconsider our tolerance of this intolerance.

Now let’s just hope my neighbors don’t start a geriatric riot outside my door to protest my writing this. Nothing annoys my ears more than the clatter of walkers and wheelchairs. Just kidding!


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