When Jaya Saxena and her husband visited his grandparents in their Florida retirement community, they found what the author calls “the early bird life.” Early bed time, inexpensive meals, look-alike housing, this was a land where predictability isn’t a dreary monotony to avoid. It’s a sign of success. For Eater, Saxena describes how they experienced this Florida by embracing its comforting routine, rest and the early bird special, the lifestyle’s affordable, predictable, culinary centerpiece. Surprisingly, they found a meal in decline. Once beloved by retirees, aging Boomers don’t take the same interest in this meal, or need to save money, or share previous generations’ visions of retirement, and their disinterest threatens this culinary icon. As diners pass away, will their early bird special go with them?
Whether rich, poor, or merely one of the declining middle class, though, few of the new Olds want to embrace their age. “Your generation is definitely not headed for bingo night,” the actor Dennis Hopper says in an Ameriprise ad about retirement investment for boomers, backed by a soundtrack of “Gimme Some Lovin.’” For boomers, a retirement of shuffling between kitchenless apartments and the local soup counter is hell, and you’re not going to drag them there yet. “The baby boomers who are coming of age these days, in part they’re healthier for longer into their lives, view old age in very different terms,” Haley said. “And don’t want to be seen as the men with the hiked-up pants and rolled-up cuffs, and the little old lady on a cane.”
Rosie Ross, a snowbird — though she prefers the term “sunbird” — who spends summers in upstate New York and winters in South Florida with her husband Bernard, told me that “the notion of early bird specials is something we attribute to older seniors, the same ones who sneak leftover rolls and sugar packets in their purses.” Though Bernard’s mother lives in North Miami, the Rosses didn’t want to live like she does. “We settled on a very cool active-adult community in the very cool city of Delray Beach,” Rosie said. The Rosses dine out multiple times a week, eat everything from Japanese to vegan, prefer to eat around 7 p.m., and “do not eat out based on early bird specials at all.” I could feel the pride emanating from her email.