Early Bird's View Of Retirement

We save all our lives for retirement. Is it worth it?

To find out, this young man moved into the Century Village Retirement Community in Boca Raton, Fla., at age 28.

Rodney Rothman, former head writer for the David Letterman show, wrote a book of his findings entitled "Early Bird," published by Simon & Schuster, a CBS company.

Accompanied by CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Geist, Rothman went back to revisit his golden (six) months of retirement when he roomed with a retired woman who's since moved away.

"I would try to follow the routine that all my neighbors were following. I really wanted to know what life is going to be like when I get older," Rothman says.

He found that it's going to be different.

"I remember going outside at 6 in the morning and seeing four or five different guys waxing their cars," Rothman recalls. "There is this assumption that people have that old people are sitting around a lot and that's the opposite of what the case is. A lot of people in Century Village were active all day long to a degree that was exhausting to me."

In the morning, there is golf, tennis and shuffleboard.

"I used to be in this club. A dues paying member. I love the idea of a sport you have to be 75 to peak at," Rothman quips.

He found the shuffleboard club's membership dwindling as "younger old people" switched to tennis so he launched an ad campaign.

"I came up with a lot of slogans: 'Play tennis if you're into a 450 percent chance of having a heart attack.' I would invent quotes. 'Shuffleboard is the most exciting thing I've ever done in my life - Neil Armstrong.'

"I remember one of them was 'catch shuffleboard fever' and then it said 'shuffleboard fever may not be covered by Medicaid,'" Rothman jokes.

One of Rothman's best friends is Stephen Goldman, who volunteers with the Civilian Observer patrol, along with some 5,000 other retirees in Palm Beach county. Rothman had wondered why all the cops down here were of a certain age.

Another best friend is Amy Ballinger, who technically isn't retired. She's still a standup comic.

"I don't knit or crochet," Ballinger says bluntly. Nor is she into canasta or bingo. Instead, Ballinger says she's been devoted to standup comedy, "since I was 87."

Rothman made an anthropological-sociological study of afternoons at the pool.

"It's kind of the high school cafeteria sort of with cliques and gossiping and I would sort of come and hang out at the pool and gradually infiltrate," Rothman says. "There are these sort of pool groups women that sit in these clumps or circles and gossip."

Of course, the men gossip, too.

"They'll talk about the woman down the hall and who she's dating now. When you're a single guy in a retirement community and you can drive at night, you're pretty much like George Clooney," Rothman kids.

At 4 p.m., it's time for dinner. Florida's famed early bird special -- dinner at a discount between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Why so early? It's "way cheaper," Rothman explains. "You get a dollar or two dollars off your entr?e. Two people can eat for $15 and you're probably getting food for tomorrow."

Rothman admits that he was no stranger to the early bird during his brief retirement phase.

"I used to go with the baked scrod, it seemed like something I would eat when I was 80," Rothman says. "I was kind of a celebrity here in some ways. Like, you're the only young guy in the community. You're like everyone's grandson. You're the jar opener for hundreds of people."

Eating at 4:30 p.m. leaves plenty of time for lots of evening activities.

"I used to play bingo with my parents. This isn't like that. This is pretty serious," Rothman says.

And when Rothman wasn't immersed in winning big at bingo, there was live entertainment to pass the time.

One on particular Saturday night, the oldsters flocked on to the mammoth Century Village clubhouse for the Dick Capri show.

"You're the youngest audience I've seen in weeks. I played a place the other night I was the only one in the room with original hips," Capri jokes to the crowd.

Capri was only half-kidding. For, after the show, many of the retirees headed to the ballroom and danced the night away.

"These people are extremely active. The euphemism now is active adult communities. They won't call themselves retirement communities," Rothman says.
  • Sean Alfano

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