What happens when a 28-year-old spends half a year living in a retirement community in Florida? Read Rodney Rothman’s Early Bird: a Memoir of Premature Retirement to find out! Last summer, when I was in a neighborhood bookstore, the cover of Early Bird caught my eye so I picked up a copy off a table and started reading different passages. Laughing out loud upon contact with the print meant this book was worth buying.
A former writer for The David Letterman Show, Rodney has a penchant for using humor, but never in a way that denigrates older adults. Through narrative, he describes his interactions with the retirees and their interactions with one another. He intersperses the stories with his research about the history and demographics of aging and the elderly in this country. The research is useful, because it provides a context for his anecdotes.
What appealed to me about this book? Why am I promoting it? As someone who prizes my relationships with older adults and treasures their wit and wisdom, I was encouraged to see that someone from my generation had slowed down enough to observe and record what it’s like to be an older adult this country. Because Rodney spent a full half year at Century Village and developed relationships with people there, he was able to document, in a meaningful way, both the strengths and the struggles of this population.
There’s something about the time Rodney took each day to talk with, observe, and interact with the elders that contradicts our normal inclination to rush through each day, to associate mostly with people from the same age or background, and to be as “productive” as possible. In this country, there is a huge emphasis on efficiency, productivity, and economic and geographic mobility. Within that emphasis, the possibilities for intergenerational connections are often lost. Elders and their life experiences are often pushed aside; they are segregated into communities where their contact with younger people is limited and vice versa. Aren’t our lives the richer for our relationships across lines of age? My own experiences and Rodney’s book tell me “Yes”.