The other evening I watched a documentary on Netflix–Andrews Jenks, Room 335. Have you seen it?
A young 20-something man moves into a retirement community in what must be Florida. I grew up in Florida surrounded by retirement communities. I also spent a great deal of my childhood with my grandmother. Getting along with older people came easy to me. I loved my grandmother. She fascinated me. I’ve never found age to be an issue when making a friend.
In any event, I’m no longer anywhere near 20 and yet I’m not near retirement age either. I wonder how I’d have felt about this documentary if I were 20 years younger? Twenty years older?
I wonder how I would feel about the documentary if I weren’t feeling particularly mortal these days. Call it post cancer awareness or something. Maybe my obituary project has gotten to me. But in any event, parts of the documentary brought tears to my eyes.
I couldn’t help but wonder how not one of the denizens of the retirement community seem to have any interests in writing or art or music. No one talked about books they wanted to write or music they used to play or stage plays they could be in. This could be because of what the documentarian chose to leave on the cutting room floor. The documentary can’t contain every bit of film after all. What if I do manage to live long enough to be in one of the communities and I’m not writing or making art anymore? Does it matter?
When my grandmother finally sold her house and moved into an apartment building for retired people, I was upset. I cried for hours. It was as if my grandmother had publicly stated her intention to die one day. I didn’t want to think about her dying. And she seemed perfectly fine to me. She could do everything for herself. Why would she want to live like an old person? I was in high school.
The building had several things for safety. The management had ways to check on the residents and emergency buttons for residents who might have fallen in the bath. But at the same time, my grandmother often said that she wasn’t old. She still got on stage and danced, after all. How old could she be? She was one of the few residents who opened her windows too. This probably has less to do with age, but my grandmother complained about the old folks who never opened their windows. My grandmother stood up straight and held her head high, all those years of ballet and tap never forgotten.
If you’re striving to be an artist, a writer, a musician, an actor, or a whatever-it-is, where do you think you’ll be at 80? I understand the need for retirement homes. I realize that it is easier for caregivers to have their chargers under one roof. Care is easier that way, isn’t it? If safety and care are your priorities, then they work. But I can’t help but feel we are better off being surrounded by different people. By different people I mean different in many ways–different races, different religions, and different ages. I don’t know how Andrew Jenks talked his way into the retirement home, but it seemed that both he and the residents benefited.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve watched recently. How about you?