Is Twin Oaks Ageist?
Many boosters and cheerleaders hate critics. “There are so many good things we are doing, why do you have to focus on the negative?” Personally, i find this thinking, especially in the context of recruiting for community, stunningly weak.
I have a long list of things i would like to change about Twin Oaks. This includes big things like our general resistance to change, our labyrinth decision making model, our failure to get off the grid (or at least to become net zero energy) and our relatively homogeneous class and racial makeup. There are small problems as well – the 5 MPH bike speed limit, our failure to connect with our neighbors more and the lack of covered bike racks.
Somewhere in the middle of this range is our “Age Cap” policy as stated on our website below:
Age Policy for Joining Twin Oaks. Twin Oaks has members of all ages – people in their 20s to those in their 80s. People of all ages participate in the Visitor Program. However, in order to keep a balance of members in all age ranges, the community has decided to adopt a limit on the number of “pensioners” (members who are over a certain age and therefore work fewer hours than younger members, according to our labor policies) that we accept for membership and this means that we have put a “hold” on accepting for membership anyone over the age of 54*, until our average age drops. The average member age changes with arrivals and departures; thus the age limit hold will be removed whenever the average age again drops below 55.
We are still welcoming people of all ages to visit, to learn more about us and to experience life here for three weeks, but people who are age 55 or older would not be eligible to apply for membership to live here. However, it is also possible for visitors who are age 55 or older to apply for an exception to this policy. We cannot guarantee that every exception will be granted, but this possibility remains available. You would need to talk with our Membership Team about the possibility of an exception.
Creating this policy was a difficult decision, and controversial in the community itself. Our challenge was finding a balance between maintaining a non-ageist policy, and on the other hand being able to address concerns such as health care costs for our already sizable population of older people, a culture that remains a blend of youth and elders (and doesn’t become a “retirement community”), and enough strong backs to fulfill the substantial amounts of physical work needed by the community.
*For starters, there is an error in this text, which will get corrected shortly. The average age in the community is around 43, not 55. But more importantly, despite the careful wording and the legitimate formulation of the concern, i don’t think this policy serves us.
In part because we are at our population cap and have a long waiting list, we already have a fairly selective membership process. If we are not inspired by someone, we are quite likely to suggest they visit again, or even reject them out right. And were i over 54 (which i am) and reading this, i would not bother with Twin Oaks, depriving us of a number of potentially awesome members, who we would likely accept if they were just not afraid of our ageist rhetoric.
And to my meta-critics (the critics of my criticism) i am fairly confident that i have spent more time promoting Twin Oaks, more hours of giving tours, more hours hosting media when they wanted to report on us, more hours speaking mostly favorably at colleges, more hours recruiting desirable prospective members, written more positive pieces about the community than anyone who is still a member.
I do love this community, and part of that love is not hiding her faults.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]