Since I worked at a university for 36 years, I qualify as something of an authority on how college students act. There were plenty of them around to observe. The school has an enrollment of more than 20,000, nearly all of them undergraduates in the 18–23 age range. It’s a residential campus, which means most of the students live at the school or nearby, and are around 24 hours a day.
When I retired and left that hormone-driven environment, I figured my surroundings would be totally different in The Villages, where there are more than 100,000 people – most of them in the age 55-and-up demographic. However, I found that there are many similarities between a college and The Villages. We both have bands, cheerleaders and baton twirlers. Colleges have football teams, and we have a polo team.
The most stunning similarity is a surprising one: Villagers are very much like college students. Of course, there are the obvious age-related differences. College students are stronger, have more energy and stamina — as well as more hair and teeth.
But, there are a lot of similarities. First, consider the partying habits of college students and Villagers. College students flock to a fraternity house and crowd into a small area that smells like beer. The crowd encircles a combo, which blares music in 50 shades of loud. The students gyrate around in semi-rhythmic synchronization with the music. They form long lines at the communal beer keg.
Villagers flock to one of three town squares, crowd into an area that smells like beer and encircle the musical group du jour. The music isn’t quite as loud as it is in a fraternity house, but it’s still loud enough to be heard even by Villagers with hearing aids. Like their younger counterparts on college campuses, the Villagers wildly bounce around and try to keep pace with the music. There is one distinct difference between dancing on the square and dancing at a college party — you rarely see line dancing in a fraternity house.
I’ll try to be delicate here, but there is a distinct similarity between college students and Villagers in the area of amorous activity. Both groups have a tendency to find creative locations for hooking up. College students gravitate toward the self-help section of the library, row 37 of the football stadium and that special couch in the student union. Villagers favor town square gazebos, electrical boxes and the polo field.
The biggest similarity between college students and Villagers involves their habits as pedestrians. Both are certain they are invulnerable to any harm and have an invisible shield around them that will prevent a vehicle from obliterating them.
For students, the college campus is their backyard. That means they can walk anywhere, anytime, without worrying about somebody running into them. It doesn’t matter if public streets cross the campus. Students saunter along and never look up as they continue to text their buddies or eyeball coeds. It is your total responsibility not to run them over. The school where I worked spent a couple of million dollars to build an underpass beneath a busy street that cut through campus because students ignored two-ton automobiles.
When college students grow older, they definitely should come to The Villages because pedestrians pay no attention to cars and golf carts here either. When you drive around one of the town squares, you are well advised to do so slowly because the streets are like those on a college campus – they’re the backyard of the Villagers who can’t be bothered to look up from their cell phones or from eyeballing the line dancers.
It could be worse. College students could have golf carts.