I’ve spent the past 10 years preparing to be an intolerable old person. I’ve been learning about wine, classical music and Samuel Johnson. I plan to one day drop this knowledge on an over-55 community in Palm Springs, Calif., where I can drive drunk on my golf cart with my like-aged friends, re-creating my college life. Only this time I’ll have physiology for an excuse as to why I’m not having sex.
Then I learned, to my surprise, that not all old people get along. I’d foolishly assumed old people were all the same: kind of cranky, a little confused, not quite either male or female. But medical science and demography are delivering up different kinds of old people, and they are not mixing well: regular old people are now running into old old people in retirementville, renewing a generational clash that has been boring me my entire life. According to this month’s Orange Coast magazine, boomers, who just started to turn 65 last year, are moving into retirement communities and driving the Greatest Generation crazy with their rock music and pot smoking. Again!
In Orange County’s Laguna Woods Village, a gated 55-and-over community of 18,000 people, there was a dustup after an older member complained about younger members’ growing medical marijuana to cope with the condition of being around superold people. Then the newcomers started a Baby Boomers Club that organizes wine tastings, hosts a drum circle, books Beatles cover bands in the clubhouses and invites the rock bands that have sprung up at the complex to perform at the yearly Woodstock Festival. The Greatest Generation may have bravely survived the Great Depression and saved Europe from tyranny, but they clearly did something to piss off their kids.
The new retirees are strong-arming the remote to dump The Lawrence Welk Show and tune in, I fear, to Laugh-In. They’re bothering octogenarians about recycling their Efferdent boxes. A recent NPR show I heard discussed the rise of STDs in retirement communities.
So I have to completely rethink my retirement plan. It’s not that I’m afraid of spending time with the generation younger than me. They’re going to be silently sitting in the cafeteria texting one another. But I’m not going to enjoy driving golf carts drunk if I’m passing by a bunch of 85-year-olds in tie-dye sitting in a circle and rubbing one another’s backs.
- Joel Stein