I commend to you Amy Ziettlow's Seniors in CasinoLand:Tough Luck for Older Americans.
I have wondered about the attractions of casinos for the 70-80 year old crowd. That's the crowd she finds in the several Casino Lands she visits, where folks go to get out of the house once they are old enough to need to have significant accomodations made for them as they attempt to carve out a social life outside of their homes.
Amy Ziettlow got interested in seniors in Casino Land because she was urged to by someone who offered insight on where the young-old spend their days, but you can't spend much time in Kansas City before you think about who must be visiting KCMO's casinos mid-day on weekdays. And you can't spend much time in Oakland and the East Bay before thinking about all the billboards for free buses for seniors to Casino Land directly from Chinatown and other neighborhoods. I suppose you could say her eyes were opened and now she wants to open ours. Some of us have had our eyes open for a while, but are still trying to understand what we are seeing.
Ziettlow's piece implies seniors are there because they have few other places to be and that slot-machine playing is a solitary, isolating activity serving as a metaphor for their lives. They are in Casino Land, in short, because it welcomes them and then anesthetizes them from thinking about how much of their lives are dedicated to killing time. The much-discussed suspension of time in casinos may be particularly attractive to a group both acutely aware of the passage of time and simultaneously disturbed to have so much free time. She is astonished at how many amenities and services catering to older age and infirmity are offered by casinos.
Her piece ends abruptly, however. I wish she had said more. In fairness, the Institute for American Values may be planning follow up work. But I have to wonder if Ziettlow's astonishment at the accomodations offered seniors in Casino Land are remarkable only because we offer surprisingly little accomodation to those aging into infirmity in other settings. I also have to wonder if she has fully explored the Casino Land experience when she focuses only on the experience inside the Casinos, disregarding the camaraderie of the bus trip and the lunch break. Many seniors are hungry for the communual experience of "the outing" as they call it. Why are these not available in more venues?
Finally, I would like to hear more about other venues that serve as "senior day care." I wish she would explore the alternative roles played by many of our public and private spaces in a society lacking communal care for many groups. For instance, if you've visitied a public library or public gym lately you are probably aware of the day care or day programming for middle school students , the formerly institutionalized, and even seniors that take place there. Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing?