tapes & transcripts


Original Air Date: February 3, 1998

FRONTLINE
Show #1608
Air date: February 3, 1998
My Retirement Dreams
Produced and Directed by Marian Marzynski

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] My name is Marian Marzynski. I am on assignment for FRONTLINE, dispatched to a territory no one likes to visit: our old age. So, of course, I am in Florida, the holy ground of retirement in America.
I came to this country 25 years ago and tasted American success. Now I am approaching 60 and wonder: What is the American Dream for the old? In a culture where new is better than old and youth better than age, we don't hear much from our elders, except where there is a scare about the future of Social Security or Medicare.
Retirement under the Florida sun attracts all kinds of Americans: the rich, the poor, the rest of us. And as for myself? I like Florida, but I am not sure I like the idea of retirement. What kind of journey will it be, a new beginning or just the end?
I've read a lot of books about retirement. One of them started this way: "No matter how much Grecian Formula you put on your hair, America is graying." Twenty five years from now, one of every five Americans will be over 65. The projections are that an army of 35 million baby boomers will join me in my retirement.
So here on the northern edge of Miami Beach, where most retirees are Jewish Americans from the Northeast, I am briskly marching into my future.
[to woman on walking track] Do you want to walk with us? We show you how to walk nicely. Since when you are retired?

1st WOMAN: Since when am I retired? A year ago.

2nd WOMAN: I walk five miles every single day, seven days a week.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Okay, just what do you do with your hands? Just tell me what is the correct way of walking. Like this? Long?

2nd WOMAN: All your energy, frustration.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Right.

2nd WOMAN: Your heart pumps- boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Some people would say that retirement is the end of life.

MAN: No, it's not the end.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: No? I am thinking about whether I should retire or not. I'm going to be bored. I'm going to be depressed. I want an answer for this question.

WALKER: Usually forward and backward helps to propel you forward.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Actually, a few of those questions were already answered for me. Some years ago I was brainwashed into a healthy lifestyle at Miami's Pritikin Longevity Center. As an alumni, I visit my teacher and cheerleader, Barbara Uddel.

BARBARA UDDEL: [to participants] What is the definition of retirement and what does it mean to you? Chaim, what does retirement mean to you?

1st PARTICIPANT: Death.

BARBARA UDDEL: Death? Did he say death? Could you, like, give a little more, Chaim?

1st PARTICIPANT: I will give it to you. As long as person, man or woman, are capable of producing and building, he should never stop.

2nd PARTICIPANT: Retiring at 65- that mindset is archaic because we now have longevity and so we are younger that we were, than our counterpart a generation ago. Much younger.

3rd PARTICIPANT: Retirement is a very personal word. For me it's like marriage. It's like love. It's like divorce. It's like religion, sex, politics. It's personal for everyone.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] My dream about retirement is a return to basics when, stripped of titles, honors and obligations, we can enjoy life's simplicity. I shared this idea with Louis Schoer when I met him on the beach. Louis spends summers in New York, winters in Miami. He has the look of a professional retiree.

[to Louis] How is it? How is this spectacle of retirement?

LOUIS SCHOER: The spectacle of retirement is rather disappointing. I felt lost, and I still do at times. And I feel like I should have a destiny, some place to go. I think we were put on this earth to do something constructive and "constructive" for me was work, work, work, work.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: But people envy you because you are the last happy generation of retired. You benefit of the G.I. Bill.

LOUIS SCHOER: Social Security, yeah.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: You made money. You can go on cruises. You can buy yourself all the pleasures.

LOUIS SCHOER: Yes, we did all those pleasures, went to the islands, traveled through Europe, traveled through the Orient. But that's only temporary. How do you keep your mind going all the time? That's the important thing.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Right.

LOUIS SCHOER: You can fall asleep, but the mind keeps going. You get up the following day and what do you have? You have the same routine. You've got to watch the clock. What time is breakfast? What time is lunch? You know, life is very strange. It's never what you planned for. You keep on going, that's it.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] "To keep your brain spinning, sign up for classes at Florida International University," said Louis. It was a good tip. In their catalogue I found a class preparing young people for retirement, taught by Dr. Tim Patton, a baby boomer.

TIM PATTON: [to class] The geezers. Okay? How many geezers do we have out there? Give me a guess. "A lot" is a nice, general ballpark. Yeah, we have a lot and we're getting more. What we have right now is about roughly 35 million of them and within about 20 years there'll be about 75 million of them. The boomer group is the other side of the equation because this is the group that's going to overwhelm the whole American system, especially in health care. How much right now is being spent for the health care of Americans?

STUDENT: One trillion?

TIM PATTON: And you know who's consuming it? Ninety percent's going for the geezers. What's going to happen when we get that age, when I get that age?

STUDENT: We won't have it.

TIM PATTON: We won't have it if we keep spending it like that.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] I soon found out that Tim Patton's agenda for the boomers is larger than health care. I went to hear him again at a faculty meeting.

TIM PATTON: [at faculty meeting] We don't want to retire, we don't want to age, we don't want to get old. We want to be us. We're baby boomers. We've always been what we consider to be the normal age in America. And so it's not so much anymore that we're retiring as this pleasant end to a long working career. It's now also we're going to be retiring because we're going to be kicked out of the jobs we have and we best damn be prepared for it to survive a long time. And it's not just now retiring, having these wonderful years to play a few rounds of golf, go to early-bird dinners and kick off, that we might have 20 to 25 years of retirement and that's a scary proposition.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] The boomers are worrying about retirement, but the geezers are actually doing it. They may have more answers for my questions. After much research I concluded that geezers live in condominiums. I know this blanket statement may offend those who don't, but television is known for exaggeration. I came here to meet Bernie Cohen. A CBS News veteran who retired some 25 years ago, Bernie moved to the Admiral's Port building and ventured into condo broadcasting.

BERNIE COHEN: Each building has its own channel 32.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Right.

BERNIE COHEN: Now, what happens is this. Everybody can see that and to entice them we let them know when the mail is in by putting up a little sign up there.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Oh!

BERNIE COHEN: So they know. They don't have to come down to find out.

[looking at monitor] I think her name is Bernice.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: And the man?

BERNIE COHEN: His name is Jimmie. I know quite a lot of them. He is my 89-year-old assistant. He's known as our poet laureate. I'll bring him right in.

JULES: [singing] We three came from Brooklyn to Admiral's Port. A condo we bought, for pleasure we thought. It never did happen. Like fools we were caught. Three slaves we've turned out to be. On Monday we're off to Winn Dixie, on Tuesdays we're shopping for fish and on Wednesdays we're cleaning the toilets. Oh, God, you don't know. It was never our wish. Our wives play canasta three evenings a week. To no one they speak, it's action we seek. Our neighbors ignore us, they say we are weak, our life's just a sham, no one gives a damn, we're coming home, Brooklyn, we're yours.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: So he's 89. And you are?

BERNIE COHEN: I'm going to be 80 this year.

JULES: He's a teenager.

BERNIE COHEN: [searching through videotapes] Halloween party, '92. That's five years ago! My God! That's what hurts, when I begin to play these things and people look at that and 19, 20 people have passed away. I'm looking at one of them, John. He passed away. Doc Wallek is still going. He's 88. Arthur Share- they're still alive, thank God. She just lost her husband, Naomi. She's 92 now. He died, Hal Asby. She died. That's the Doc's wife. She died about 6 months ago, right here.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] I've learned a lot of condo gossip from Bernie. One story was about a woman who was a nervous wreck when she recently moved from Long Island to start her retirement in Miami.

JUDITH KORSON: This apartment was rented by a family called Margolis and-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Her name is Judith Korson.
[to Judith] So is it beautiful?

JUDITH KORSON: It's a magnificent apartment. It's a beautiful apartment. I love it. I'm very comfortable here. It's grand. It's spacious. It's what I'm used to from being in a house which I've lived in for many, many years.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: What's missing here from what-

JUDITH KORSON: My daughter. My family. I have a connection with that area. After all, that was my home for many, many years.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Is retirement a bad word?

JUDITH KORSON: I feel as though it's an ending. It's almost like a waiting period and I don't like that feeling. As I was doing it, I was happy, but at the same time I was frightened out of my wits. Yes! Because "Judy, what are you doing? It is- I mean, this is going to be a big, big move for you and it's permanent!" And I don't like to think in terms of permanency.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: You know what Bernie Cohen is telling me now? That this condo is getting so old that they run out of ideas of things to do. The old-timers like Bernie count on newcomers like Judith to energize the condo.

BERNIE COHEN: The standard joke here is, "He's not good-looking, he's not rich, but he drives at night. He's a good catch." That fellow who wrote that poem, "My tribe, may it increase"- our tribe is not increasing.

1st RETIREE: Many of the people are simply too old to partake in any social things. If they get through the day, they're a happy person.

BERNIE COHEN: Caterers want to see 100 people guaranteed. We can't do that any longer. We don't know if we're going to get 50 or 80 or 90.

2nd RETIREE: We try all the time. And you see who comes down. Here we are. Two big pools and here we are. Bernie, they're home before 9:00.

JULES: We drew big crowds for deck parties! Big Crowds.

2nd RETIREE: But Jules, after you served them they went home.

JULES: No. No.

2nd RETIREE: We were a handful that stayed. You know, be honest if you're going to talk.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] What I saw at Admiral's Port worries me. The old, so isolated in retirement, don't they need the young to survive? Who said that the seniors must live in peace and quiet? I think about it while cruising South Beach, once a notorious oasis of old age, today an around-the-clock celebration of youth. What a symbol of our segregated society. I need my retirement to be louder. I should stick with the boomers.

Dr. TIM PATTON: [on golf course] That was a "yes" shot only because we had three "no" shots before that.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] I asked Dr. Tim Patton to tell me more about his prescription for retirement.

Dr. TIM PATTON: Okay. One, we're going to have to stay far healthier because we cannot afford the cost of health care. So coming out and just enjoying, finding ways to reduce stress and stay a little bit more fit and healthy is not what the other generation was concerned with. They didn't know all of the problems they were going to have.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: So they are costly.

Dr. TIM PATTON: Very costly. Oh, jeez!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Because they are not in shape.

Dr. TIM PATTON: Well, not only are they not in shape and have lots of chronic diseases, but they have this certain sort of demand on the system that says the system is responsible for paying for them, that they're costly because they would rather go in for bypass surgery than change their diet, because in their mentality, that's what the health care system does. It fixes you when you're broke.

In the new generation, we don't want to get broke. We don't want to have to have somebody come and fix us. We want to stay as healthy as we can. I think having leisure and recreation activities becomes ultra-important. What do you do if you don't have something to do, you know? Do you become one of these angry old retired people who lives in a condominium and yells at people about parking in their parking place? Get a life. Get out. When I'm 75-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Tim says the geezers worked one job, saved for retirement and now drain public health care dollars. Boomers are opportunity seekers, job switchers and big spenders. They challenge 65 as a retirement age. They must stay healthy to be able to work longer. Tim's agenda is that public funds must be used for preventive health care of boomers today, so tomorrow they will cost less and enjoy more.
[to Tim on golf course] What's the situation here, huh?

Dr. TIM PATTON: Well, I'm putting a long way for par, but I can make that. The whole idea is that every hole has so many strokes you're supposed to complete it in.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] All this talking about fitness reminds me that I need a hobby for my retirement. I have none.

PHIL FARGIANO: I can take five minutes to show you the swing and you're going to have to take your lifetime then to learn it.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] I turn to Phil Fargiano, who has shown thousands of retirees the nirvana of golf.

PHIL FARGIANO: So we want to stand tall, do a "Japanese hello." We're bending right from the hips, so if you take your club here and put it next to your lower spine, you're bending right from the hip, bending forward. When this goes back, the club head goes back and-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Actually, I had a bad attitude about this dumb game.

PHIL FARGIANO: I just happen to have this device here-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] My thoughts are wandering. The future of Social Security, cuts in Medicare-

PHIL FARGIANO: Your arms just provide shape to the swing.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] -what happened to the universal health care plan, why did we kill it? To hell with retirement. I want to be a boomer.
[to Phil] Well, let me understand. The idea is that the distance between my arms and my ball here are the same all through.

PHIL FARGIANO: See, watch your head there. Move back. Move away from me a little. Your chest turns back and it pivots your weight on your right leg around in a circle. On your down swing, it comes back around, pivoting around in a circle, hitting the ball.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Golf is not for thinkers, I conclude.

PHIL FARGIANO: -two and three! Nothing. Stop. Remember, that stays down. You're in here.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Another explanation is that I am out of shape.

PHIL FARGIANO: Beautiful, Mario!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] At the Pritikin Longevity Center, I exercise with the boomers.

1st BOOMER: I look at my parents. You know, they started work at 20. They wanted just to get to 65, to get their pension. That's not the type of life that I want. You know, when I'm finished working, whatever it be, at 55, 65, I want to live the remainder of my life and that's why I'm here at Pritikin, because I'm a statistic waiting to happen. My mom died at 43. Both grandparents severe diabetics- grandmothers. Grandfather died with emphysema. I want to live the remainder of my life.

2nd BOOMER: The more you're interested in growing personally, the more you're interested in learning about how to be a better person, the more you become healthier.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] From boomers to geezers and back, I am commuting between my body and my mind.

Tim Patton invited me to his home at a new development where almost everyone is a baby boomer. His father is visiting.
[at Patton's home] Dad is from Youngstown, Ohio?

PATTON'S FATHER: Right, right, right.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: So is the "geezer" name a bad name or a good name?

PATTON'S FATHER: Who told you I was a geezer!

Dr. TIM PATTON: There are some things you don't need to tell a person.

PATTON'S FATHER: You think I am?

Dr. TIM PATTON: A geezer?

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: I am in the middle. I am 60. I am not a boomer and I try to be geezer, but I'm not quite there.

Tell me your routines. Describe this.

PATTON'S FATHER: Of course, I don't know if every day was the same but, you know, it's basically the same. She always- we always woke up- we're always- we're early people, early in the morning. I mean, we're awake 5:30, quarter to 6:00.

Dr. TIM PATTON: Why do people who are retired get up at 5:00 o'clock?

PATTON'S FATHER: Because they go to bed early.

Dr. TIM PATTON: Do you have to hurry into the day to do nothing?

PATTON'S FATHER: Well-

Dr. TIM PATTON: It's an inconceivable idea to wake up and not have any plan of what to do for that day or the next day-

PATTON'S FATHER: Well I've been doing fine for about five years and it don't bother me one bit. I'm telling you the truth. Now, I'm not saying-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Geezers and boomers. Is it an old feud between fathers and sons or the beginning of a new American dream: no more retirement at 65, stay in shape, keep working, just change gears.

Dr. TIM PATTON: We can go through a whole list of your friends from the Blairs to the Corbets all the way down the line, and God bless them all, but they're not in nearly as good shape financially and physically as you are. And mentally most of them are baskets.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Back at the Admirals' Port condominium, Judith waits for her brother, Herbert, to arrive from New York.
[to Judith] When he will come, there will be a lot of hugging.
[voice-over] The reason Judith was so nervous about retiring was that Herbert was supposed to move with her, but changed his mind at the last minute.

JUDITH KORSON: [demonstrating peck on the cheek] And then he'll go- just like that, just like that, just like that!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Now she hopes he will reconsider his decision.

[to Judith] This is a Lincoln. This is a Lincoln. And the man that is in this Lincoln is your brother!

HERBERT: Oh, Jesus! You know what traffic I hit? Senor!

JUDITH KORSON: How you feel Herbie?

HERBERT: If I tell you, I had such a rough trip-

JUDITH KORSON: Did you sleep?

HERBERT: My stomach, my head, just the thought of making changes. I got out of the motel and-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Herbie's retirement has been a bitter one. "He lives in the past," Judy told me. "He thinks he had a life and it's all over."

HERBERT: I tell you, the wallpaper has to go.

JUDITH KORSON: Herbie, look up.

HERBERT: I used to have that in my bedroom for the girls I used to bring up. That doesn't open.

JUDITH KORSON: Yes, it does.

HERBERT: It's a couch!

JUDITH KORSON: No, it opens.

HERBERT: Oh, my God. Oh, yeah.

Each one of our travesties- you know, each one of our-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Herbert did well in the textile business and thought he had a wonderful family.

HERBERT: -and I loved life and I-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] But he divorced 20 years ago, retired soon after and concluded that life failed him.

HERBERT: It killed me. It destroyed me. My incentive for my business was rough. I couldn't function as good. It's in my head and I'm trying to get it out that-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] I am beginning to understand that the real problem of retirement is not just money and health, but the mind and the spirit.
I decided to sign up for a different kind of class at the Elders Institute. It is called "Writing Your Memories."

BETTY SULLIVAN: [reading] It's midnight and I suppose I should go to bed, but why? I'm not tired. There's lots of programs on late-night T.V. In fact, I feel like having a little snack. Maybe I can hop in the car and take a ride to the Rascal House for some matzoh ball soup. You know what? This is a good time to do a little laundry. At this hour nobody will be using the washing machines in our building. And when the clothes are cleaned and dried, I'll put a lot of cream on my face and nestle down in a nice bubble bath. Maybe I'll be sleepy by then, but if I'm not, it's Okay. No matter how late I go to bed, I can sleep as long as I want in the morning. I'm no longer bound by time and schedules. A prisoner for more that 50 years has earned her freedom from labor. It's called retirement.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Her name is Betty Sullivan, 69 years old. She worked as an administrator in a medical school.
[to Betty] How much Betty needs to be happy?

BETTY SULLIVAN: Oh, it probably costs me about- maybe $1,000 a month.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: That's it, $600 for the apartment and $400 for the rest?

BETTY SULLIVAN: Right. Yeah, to be happy.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: So what are you talking about? So most people can afford it.

BETTY SULLIVAN: Well, there are those people who are only getting, say, $500 from social security or something.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: What's your Social Security? What's your Social Security?

BETTY SULLIVAN: Mine is $788, I think it is, and I have a small pension. I think my main responsibility is just to keep myself-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Alive.

BETTY SULLIVAN: -alive and within my budget so that I don't overdo it and to keep healthy, actually, and to try to have a little fun. But I've always had fun in my whole life. My philosophy was always "Live and laugh."

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: So what do you think about death?

BETTY SULLIVAN: I think differently about death than I did before. When it happens, it happens, you know? But I think- I'm not so sure there's anything afterwards. That's what I mean. But whereas years ago I did. I was very philosophical and spiritual, maybe, about life hereafter. But now I'm not so sure, so I kind of think this is it and that this is heaven right here.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Your color is all green.

BETTY SULLIVAN: Yeah, because I figured it's so small so I had to keep it simple. But you know, they're fixing the balconies outside, so we can't use our balconies. They're putting new railings on the balconies. When my boyfriend comes over, then I pull the bottom out.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: And you move it. Otherwise it's- yeah, well, for the size of this-

BETTY SULLIVAN: I'm writing a chronology-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [reading] "Had cosmetic eye surgery at St. Francis hospital." I tell you, I have those bags here. I mean how is it? Does it make sense? Is it good?

BETTY SULLIVAN: Yeah. You go in the office and they give you an injection and then he takes the- you have to stay wide awake without any anesthesia because you have to be talking to him while he's doing it. And then he takes these scissors and he cuts away all the skin and you have these big holes under- oh, it's so gruesome.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: But it's great now. So you had under and over. You had this also? Just once.

BETTY SULLIVAN: Oh, this was the worst. Yeah, that was terrible. I'm meeting somebody new. I met him and I'm going to start seeing him because he's an active kind of a person and my- the boyfriend that I've had for, like, the last 12 years is, like, a couch potato. You have to have somebody different for all the things you like to do because there's not one person that wants to do everything that you want to do.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] She brought me to her line dancing class at the local shopping mall. Betty told me that her 17 years of marriage were good, but only while they were bringing up their seven children. Only after her divorce she realized that all the while, her life lacked freedom. For Betty, retirement is an adventure.

Another woman in my Florida life is Regina Blank, who I adopted as my Jewish mother. Regina is 89, still a professional seamstress. She and her friends like to go to Rascal House, the famous Jewish restaurant, for the ultimate retirement self-indulgence

REGINA BLANK: So I start to mail the letter- I open up the letter-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] For Regina, a Holocaust survivor, surviving this festival of cholesterol is peanuts. In Regina I see my own mother, who lived with us until she died at 82. Regina has been a regular of this bingo hall for a quarter of a century.

REGINA BLANK: I don't go for the money. If I sit home and sew I would make more money, believe me. Just- I go to spend the time.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: You're not dating, Regina?

REGINA BLANK: I tell, you I buried two boyfriends.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: You had- after you lost your husband, you buried two boyfriends?

REGINA BLANK: He's got to appeal to me, you understand?

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: What are you looking for?

REGINA BLANK: Someone like you, honey!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] There used to be 200 players here. Now two dozen make a crowd.

This is Regina's condo, built in the early '70s and aging now. Although Regina has outlived most of her peers, her sewing customers keep coming and she likes feeling independent. But her family worries that one day Regina will no longer be able to care for herself and thinks she deserves a more comfortable life. So her granddaughter, Amy, is trying to talk her into moving to the famous Century Village, a luxury retirement community in the suburbs.

[to Regina] So Amy says that you should move out, right?

REGINA BLANK: I don't want to move. I'm too old. What I am going to- look for new friends?

AMY: Many of her friends have already moved to the same place, to Century Village.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: So what are you telling her?

AMY: That she won't have to make new friends because they're all there already. It has security. It has transportation provided for her.

REGINA BLANK: Just, it's- I'm too old to move. You think moving is so easy?

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] What would my own mother have said on the subject of a more comfortable life? "The only comfort I need is you," she would tell me.

REGINA BLANK: I'm afraid- another thing. My sister lived here in this apartment, then her husband passed away. The daughter insisted she should move to Arizona. When she moved to Arizona, she was living in that new place maybe three weeks or two weeks, and she died.

AMY: It's different circumstances. She had just come out of the hospital-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: I know it's different but- there is an old saying that you do not move old furniture.

[voice-over] Amy arranged for Regina to tour Century Village, which promises worry-free living for active elders and has been a big success in Florida.

SALESMAN: Welcome to Century Village, Mrs. Blank. And this is your granddaughter, Amy? Nice to meet you. Fine. We have a brochure over here I'd like you to hold onto. Thank you. Okay, please come with me. We have 13,000 people. We have 724 acres. There's 90 acres of water. You also have all of the amenities of the club house, of belonging to over 70 clubs. First I'll show you are beautiful lobby, where people-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] "Would I want to be surrounded by 13,000 people of the same old age?" I ask myself. Of course not. I would feel cut off from the real noises of life.

SALESMAN: And it has everything that you need over here. You'll have a lot of friends over here. As a matter of fact, many people have met their wives over here, and met their husbands. And this is the place where, if you want to meet someone, this is a wonderful place. You'll be very happy over here. And there's many people to choose from. So why don't we- well, let's step over here and I'll show you a few more things, okay?

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] But Regina is much older than I. Would she replace her own niche in life by this elegant isolated summer camp for elders? [www.pbs.org: Special Web sites for retirees]
SALESMAN: And over here we have a room in here where we have a piano in here, we have an organ. There are choral groups that meet here. And it's a very lovely place because if you want to learn how to play piano, we will teach you.

Over here you have your beautiful living room. And it's a very lovely apartment, and it's something very attractive.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Regina decided to stay in her old building. And when you see her back at the poker table with the condo's last Mohicans, you understand why.

1st POKER PLAYER: Pair of tens, pair of deuces-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] They all lost their husbands here. They share a bond and fight the solitude by sticking together.

2nd POKER PLAYER: Wait a minute she hasn't put any money in. Where are you going!

3rd POKER PLAYER: She said she did!

2nd POKER PLAYER: She checked and she bet!

3rd POKER PLAYER: I did not bet!

2nd POKER PLAYER: And I paid!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] For Regina, there was no choice between old friends and new comforts.

REGINA BLANK: You have a straight, I have a full house.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] "What do I need two bathrooms for?" she said.

REGINA BLANK Three jacks and two tens!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Judy is still trying to convince her brother, Herbert, to stay with her in Florida. They share their best times at Jai Lai. Judith is thinking about her bets. She is a cautious gambler.
[to Herbert] What are you doing? One?

HERBERT: Two, four, eight.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] He is an emotional player. Herbert says he hates gambling. He calls it "a make-believe life void of feelings," but he keeps playing.

HERBERT: Muto buene! Uno mas! Chula! Good boy! One took it.
MARIAN MARZYNSKI: I see. I see. So now, one, two-

HERBERT: If one goes out I've got it. Uno mas! Cuve! Uno mas! Put him away, baby! Chula! Chula! Oh, you son of a gun!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: You wanted three to win- and you wanted three to win, and where is three? Who is winning?

HERBERT: Oh, you jackass!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Who is winning?

HERBERT: Oh, you gave it away, you bastard!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Three! And three lost it!

HERBERT: Son of a-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Three lost it, so we all-

HERBERT: We all lost

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: We all lost.
[voice-over] Judith plays bridge at the local club, but this not for Herbert. He wants out of his retirement, but cannot make new business connections. His savings are shrinking.
[to Herbert] Do you see yourself as an elder already? Do you have this notion-

HERBERT: No, I think I'm a youngster.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: An aging youngster right?

HERBERT: I still feel like I'm a kid.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: So at this age the attachment to what was before stops you from creating something new.

HERBERT: Absolutely.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: And you still think about your family.

HERBERT: Very well put.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] When I ask him what's missing in his life, he says love. "Live life," Judith tells him. "It's gone," he answers.

HERBERT: I'm hoping time will be on our side.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Herbert is stuck in the unfinished business of his past. He cannot let go of his old life, so he cannot start the new one.

HERBERT: It takes time, right, to learn to deal with the problems. You can get over almost anything if you have the patience and the time. Oh, baby!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Will he come to Florida? No.
Herbert is not the only one among retirees with a sense of being stuck or frozen, a liminal figure.

1st STUDENT: I was forced to retire. And when I was forced to retire I came down here and put my hands up, "What am I going to do?" I had no hobbies while I was working and I don't play cards and I don't play tennis and I don't play golf and I don't do shopping, window shopping or shopping in stores, or go to luncheons. What do I do?

HOWARD SALZMAN: You see, I'm looking back, too.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Howard Salzman knows how to deal with those feelings.

HOWARD SALZMAN: Do we not as older people, the elders, sometimes look backwards and try to drop that paradigm, so to speak-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] A salesman for 40 years, he then finished college and became the most inspiring coach of the retirees.

HOWARD SALZMAN: [reading] I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] He teaches a class at the Elders Institute called "Think Tank." Any subject goes.

2nd STUDENT: I was always busy making a living, doing my job, and suddenly that stops. And it didn't happen over a long period of time, it happened when I did decide to retire. So I was at first frightened.

HOWARD SALZMAN: Frightened of the unknown.

3rd STUDENT: The most important thing is knowing what to do with your spare time because a lot of people just vegetate. And I was more interested in learning and getting more experience with life and doing all the kind of things that I haven't been able to do because I was tied up in business all my life.

HOWARD SALZMAN: Most of you here, I don't know what your assets are, but your assets are going to go to your children, are they not? And the figures are well into the trillions, not the millions. Trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars are going to pop into these young people, you know, coming in. Is it not true?

4th STUDENT: The problem with the current generation is they want immediate gratification. They don't want to wait as we waited, worked hard, accumulated a little money and- and took everything in stride. As things came along we waited for it. They want everything it took us a lifetime to have, they want it at the early part of their lives without working as hard as we did.

5th STUDENT: Our parents gave us more of love and wisdom. We have a tendency sometimes because maybe we're younger and we have more things that we do- we have a tendency to give more things-

4th STUDENT: Material things.

5th STUDENT: -that are material. Thank you. I couldn't think of the word- more material things than our parents gave us, probably, because we may be able to afford it more than they did, but also because it makes it more convenient for us to do so. And the kids have grown up to accept the fact that lots of times they expect these things.

6th STUDENT: All the values that you're talking about that the children seem to lack is not their fault, it's our fault. Whoever has children like this, they failed to instill the values that we treasure.

7th STUDENT: The values can still be taught. The values are different. I saw a movie yesterday in which there's the bad sister who won't take responsibility for her father, her dying father, and the good sister who gives her whole life. And I was the leader so I said "Do you think the bad sister is bad?" And they said no. And of course they did because the new attitude is "You gotta live your life. It's only once and it's precarious, it's dangerous," so that we have to have new mores that will take care- perhaps eliminate a lot of the wildness that we've catered.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Are we capable of doing this individually or-
[voice-over] More then all the other experts and teachers I met in Florida, it was Howard Salzman who helped me learn to think about old age.

HOWARD SALZMAN: In the process of growing older you do become obsessed with yourself. You know, in the first place, you're cut off from business, all the damn people around you, you know, your work and your friends and everything. These people, most of them come from up north, you know, New York or something, and all of a sudden they're alone. You know what I mean? They have no job, they have nothing. Now what the hell else are you going to be obsessed with except yourself. Your only company is yourself. And occasionally you pick up a friend or two. That's a critical thing. Then if you really want to engineer something, you may wish to create a new style of living.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Right. And so then, in a sense, from an humanistic point of view retirement is this second chance for human beings.

HOWARD SALZMAN: You're hitting it right on the head. It's a second chance to live, to be a human being. Is it possible that our American economy has been such that it has separated us? You know, we're estranged from society, and estranged from each other. You know, in the Orient and other places like that, comes the second chance when you stop working, 60, 65, whatever it is, you really are on the search, search for enlightenment, whatever you want. And you give your business over to the children, you give away your responsibilities, and you begin searching for, you know, answers and stuff.

If you didn't learn how to live before you reach 65, it's very difficult to teach you how to live afterwards. That's one of the shortfalls of our education system. We're so technically, you know, oriented, that we didn't tell them how to be a human being, how to live, how to enjoy life. And suddenly the job ceases and there they are. "Now what do I do?" You know, that's basically what it is. [www.pbs.org: Howard's reflections on retirement]
MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] In Howard I found a spiritual brother, in Betty Sullivan a sister.

BETTY SULLIVAN: I haven't seen you in such a long time.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: What a colorful woman!

BETTY SULLIVAN: It's in today's newspaper. It's still in today's newspaper. But I'm not getting any response on it so if I should do that again, I believe I would have to change the ad a little bit. And here's the "Personals" and it's under "Women Seeking Men." This is my ad. It says "Easygoing gal would like to date happy-go-lucky gentleman 65-plus. Ready for companionship and maybe more." I didn't put that sentence in, they did. But I think of myself as the excheerleader type. That's what I should put-

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Absolutely.

BETTY SULLIVAN: Ex-cheerleader type kind of person.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [writing ad] Ex-cheerleader searching for- still- we are- you are still sticking with 65-plus?

BETTY SULLIVAN: Yeah.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Oh, ex-cheerleader searching for an ex-football player.

BETTY SULLIVAN: For an ex-football player? Okay, that's good.
MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Now, what can be negative about- football player has to be playful, certainly-

BETTY SULLIVAN: No touchdowns!

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: So "Ex-cheerleader searching for ex-football player. I am bubbly. You must be funny."

[voice-over] I found another class, "Sing That Song Again," where seniors romanticize their past. By now, I am no longer just a reporter. I feel like an insider. I told Howard Salzman about my Sinatra experience.

HOWARD SALZMAN: The older person is reliving the old experience. We're doing Frank Sinatra, we're going to the restaurant, we're seeing this show, what they did for 40 or 50 years. Do you wish to go- how about taking a trip to somewhere you've never been? You know what I mean? How about meeting people you were afraid of? How about, you know, going into the ghetto or whatever, meeting strangers? How about meeting a stranger? There is a tendency with older people, particularly in the condominiums, to cluster.

Once you walk into retirement you have to walk into a new age and a new life. You cannot drag the past into it. There are certain experiences and everything, yes, you can't deny, but you're looking for enlightenment, so to speak. Here is a grand time of your life, 65 or whatever it is, and suddenly the world opens up and you must leave the past alone. All the past is going to do is torture you.
So this poem would really hit on this. [reading] "There is a phoenix within us all that calls from the depths of our being. When we listen we hear 'continue on.' Physical limitations are but an invitation to another route. So make haste. The royal bird readies itself for flight to heights you never dreamed of."

BETTY SULLIVAN: Are you a polka person?

MAN IN DANCE HALL: Yes. Why?

BETTY SULLIVAN: How's about teaching me?

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Betty had no answer to her personal ad. I had an idea. I invited her to the last Polish-American club still offering an old fashioned dancing floor for seniors. Betty was bubbling. One thing she didn't know was that I also invited Howard.

BETTY SULLIVAN: Hi, Sal. Is your name Sal?

HOWARD SALZMAN: Howard.

BETTY SULLIVAN: Hi, Howard.

HOWARD SALZMAN: What's your name, Betty?

BETTY SULLIVAN: Betty.

HOWARD SALZMAN: Well, hi, Betty.

BETTY SULLIVAN: Hi.

HOWARD SALZMAN: Hi.

BETTY SULLIVAN: Betty Sullivan

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: Remember on the beach, we were talking about retirement and old age being a liberation, a freedom?

HOWARD SALZMAN: Right.

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: She is incredible at turning these things into a celebration of freedom. She really is like a little girl living in fairy tale. She wants to dance all day. She wants to do things.

BETTY SULLIVAN: I like to think that life is dance- like this dance tonight. That's what I-

HOWARD SALZMAN: Life is a dance.

BETTY SULLIVAN: It is a dance.

HOWARD SALZMAN: It's the great dance that you're going to do until the very end, when you take your final step into the coffin and you put your hand up and take down the lid.

BETTY SULLIVAN: And hopefully, you can find a partner that you can dance with. When I was single, I started to write a poem about getting married. And it started off- it started off like this. It started off, "In just a little while, calla lilies will bloom along the aisle." And then I got married and I never finished the poem. So now I'm divorced and I live alone and everything, so now I've got to finish the poem. So how do you suggest I finish it?

HOWARD SALZMAN: We'll do a duet on poetry. Let's see what we've got. "Tender lips come close that I may touch you. Let your soft breath through- tender lips come close that I may touch you. Let your soft breath through and become one with mine that we may spend some time in the tender embrace of the moment."

MARIAN MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] My journey to the land of our second chances was coming to an end. The most important thing I learned is that aging is about living in time and it can be a joy, an illumination for the mind. Perhaps the Spanish say it best. Their word for a retiree is "jubilado," jubilation. What a great idea!

ANNOUNCER: There's more to explore about the challenges and rewards of retirement at FRONTLINE's Web site. Learn more about some of the retirees featured in this film, a guide to Web sites on the Internet of special interest for retirees, and our viewer discussion, a chance to share your thoughts about adjusting to retirement. Explore FRONTLINE online at www.pbs.org.

VOICEOVER FOR PREVIEW DURING CREDITS:

Next time on FRONTLINE: Once we were brothers. Some of us made it. Some of us didn't.

KATHLEEN CLEAVER: The income gap is so profound-

ANNOUNCER: How did this happen?

WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON: Inequality is growing more rapidly in the black community-

ANNOUNCER: Are we not our brothers' keepers?

CORNEL WEST: What kind of people are we, really?

ANNOUNCER: And what do we do about it? Henry Louis Gates, Jr., explores "The Two Nations of Black America" next time on FRONTLINE.

MY RETIREMENT DREAMS

PRODUCED, DIRECTED
AND REPORTED BY
Marian Marzynski

PHOTOGRAPHED BY
Slawomir Grunberg

SOUND
Jason Longo

EDITORS - LOG IN PRODUCTIONS
Slawomir Grunberg
Jason Longo

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
David E. Simpson

PRODUCTION ASSOCIATES
Jane Greenberg
Brian Truglio

ONLINE EDITOR
Shady Hartshorne

SOUND MIX
Jim Sullivan

SONG
"To The Gypsies"
By Alex Fox

SPECIAL THANKS:
Diane Ackerman
Al Afterman
Eva Berman
Helene Endzweig
Viola and Irving Fertig
Maria Fernandez
Marty Hamburger
Naomi Katcher
George Kelly
Shirley Marsell
Bob Milanese
Miami Heart Institute
Mount Sinai Hospital
Premiere Fitnesse Club
Elyse N. Rapaport
Max Rothman
Rachel Rivers
Daniel Steiner
Harriet Steiner
Milton Stier
South Florida's Center for Aging
Jeane Stockheim
Sandy Warshaw
David Zionts

POST PRODUCTION DIRECTOR
Tim Mangini

POST PRODUCTION PRODUCER
Mary G. Rabinow

AVID EDITORS
Steve Audette
Shady Hartshorne

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
Julie A. Parker

SERIES MUSIC
Mason Daring
Martin Brody

SERIES GRAPHICS
LoConte Goldman Design

CLOSED CAPTIONING
The Caption Center

COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
Richard Byrne

PUBLICIST
Chris Kelly

OUTREACH COORDINATOR
Emily Gallagher

PROMOTION ASSISTANT
Frances Arnaud

SECRETARY
Denise Barsky

PRODUCTION SECRETARY
Bllu Catalano

SENIOR STAFF ASSOCIATE
Lee Ann Donner

UNIT MANAGERS
Robert O'Connell
Valerie Opara

BUSINESS MANAGER
Karen Carroll

WEBSITE RESEARCH ASSISTANT
Tracy Loskoski

WEBSITE PRODUCTION
COORDINATOR
Stephanie Ault

SENIOR RESEARCHER
Miri Navasky

STORY EDITOR
Karen O'Connor

STAFF PRODUCER
June Cross

COORDINATING PRODUCER
Robin Parmelee

SENIOR PRODUCER
SPECIAL PROJECTS
Sharon Tiller

SERIES EDITOR
Marrie Campbell

SERIES MANAGER
Jim Bracciale

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Michael Sullivan

SENIOR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
David Fanning

A FRONTLINE coproduction with
Marz Associates
© 1998
WGBH EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Now it's time for your letters. Our program, "The Princess and the Press," elicited a mailbag full of opinions. Here's a sample.

GAYLE CARLSON: [E. Hanover, NJ] Dear FRONTLINE: I was disappointed and angered by the media's portrayal in "The Princess and the Press." Your program, as well as the headlines you selected for your Web site, were a further exploitation of the Princess.

ALAN VANDE KOP: [Leon, IA] Dear FRONTLINE: I find your propagation of the position that because Diana sometimes invited the media's presence she forfeited any rights to privacy very self-serving to your profession.

JULIANA PASKO: [Vancouver, B.C., Canada] Dear FRONTLINE: I enjoyed "The Princess and the Press" very much. I was expecting another fawning report or expose on the royal family and was pleasantly surprised to find a discussion of the media and its relation to a public person.

ROBYN CALLO: [Deming, NM] Dear FRONTLINE: Nothing was said in tonight's FRONTLINE that was new or unknown to me, yet I still found myself riveted to the screen, listening to every detail. Princess Diana had this need-to-know attraction that eventually became her tragic end ... It was the "Diana persona" that kept and still keeps us enthralled.

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Copyright / 1998 WGBH Educational Foundation

 

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