What happens when people segregate themselves by age and move behind locked gates?
Do they lose perspective, start to forget about life outside their safe enclave and maybe the values of their own younger selves?
Not all of them, obviously.
But if there's no truth to this, if gates don't tend to lock out a few sympathies along with the crime, then how do you explain the recent action of the board of the Brookridge homeowners group?
As my co-worker Danny Valentine wrote in Tuesday's Times, there's a gate at the back of this community of about 2,500 double-wide mobile homes. It's right across Ken Austin Parkway from a school complex for kids from kindergarten to 12th grade. The 50 or students who live in Brookridge can safely walk to school with the help of a crossing guard. This is good for the kids, convenient for parents and, because the gate is open for only a few hours every morning and afternoon, raises no real security concerns. Even the board president said as much.
So, taking all this into consideration, what did he and the other board members decide to do a few weeks ago?
Slam the gate shut. Slap a padlock on it starting next Monday. Force kids who aren't eligible for busing to walk up to 5 miles along busy and/or sidewalk-free roads. Or, really, because no student can be expected to make such a daily trek, force parents and grandparents to waste gas and time driving children to school.
The question isn't whether this is the right decision. Of course it isn't.
Sifting through the confused justifications offered by board president Ray Starr, the only thing I could find approaching a legitimate reason was the matter — easily resolved — of how to get the gate unlocked and locked every day.
So, I have to think that on some level the decision comes down to this: Board members have forgotten about the duty of older people to younger ones and have lost respect for folks doing the important job of raising kids.
Brookridge is not yet restricted to people 55 and older. But it is trying to get such a designation in court, and, if that happens, it won't be much of a change, according to census data.
The average resident of Brookridge — along with a few hundred people just outside its walls that the Census Bureau lumped in with the community — is 66.3 years old; only 11 percent of the households have children younger than 18.
Why did I say that not all the people here have lost perspective? Well, partly because on Tuesday, I couldn't find anybody who agreed with the board or even thought that life would be better without kids around.
That included, of course, the folks who have spent hours protesting the gate closing.
Gail Gill, who is helping to raise her 7-year-old grandson, Michael, moved to Brookridge 21/2 years ago. That was about three years after she married "the love my life," her second husband, Dennis Gill, and less than a year after he died in a car wreck.
"I love my grandson," she said. "He probably stopped me from going nuts. I wanted to fall apart, but I couldn't fall apart because he needed me."
When I asked to speak to someone on the other side of the issue, one protester referred me to Mary Campbell as a resident who "hates kids."
Not at all, Campbell said. She raised two sons and a daughter and worked 22 years as a school crossing guard in Massachusetts.
"I loved it," she said.
"And I'm going to stick my neck out on this one and say I don't think the board made the right decision."
Follow Dan DeWitt at Twitter.com@ddewitttimes.