Memento Mori: The "Death" of youngtown

Kevin McHugh, Ann M. Fletchall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Youngtown, Arizona, was founded in 1954 as the nation's first retirement community, presaging the original Sun City (1960) and subsequent proliferation of active-adult communities across America. Youngtown, whose attractiveness waned owing to competition from more upscale, amenity-rich communities, suffered a fatal blow in 1998. Legal issues led to the loss of age restrictions, ushering in a swift and dramatic transformation of Youngtown from retirement enclave to working-class community, as Youngtown was overwhelmed by powerful social currents coursing through the Phoenix metropolitan region: explosive population growth, suburban sprawl, Latinization, and voracious demand for affordable housing. We tell the story of the life and death of Youngtown as a retirement haven, including the response of seniors to the loss in community identity: out-migration, anger, depression, and eventual acceptance among older people who linger. Insular, freeze-frame dreams of community identity and stability common among seniors in retirement enclaves ultimately prove chimerical in the face of urban change. The death of Youngtown as retiree haven, viewed in the sweep of shifting cultural attitudes about aging, may be a harbinger, the opening notes in a requiem for de jure retirement communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-35
Number of pages15
JournalProfessional Geographer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 28 2009


  • Agelessness
  • Anti-aging
  • Cultural attitudes
  • Retirement communities
  • Urban change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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