A veteran advocate for mixing rather than segregating the generations returns with a volume whose title is hyperbolic but whose subtitle tells the story.
Social entrepreneur Freedman (The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, 2011, etc.) writes that he’s “never much trusted self-help books or advice,” but he’s written one of the former and dispenses plenty of the latter. Regardless, the author’s principal point is important: The warehousing of our elderly, the establishment of elder-only communities all over the Southwest and elsewhere—these are turning out to be grievous wounds that we are inflicting upon ourselves. Their existence and proliferation deny the young easy access to the experience and wisdom of their elders, and they also deny (or make difficult) opportunities for older Americans to employ the skills—social, intellectual, emotional—that so many of them possess, skills that could have great social benefit. One of the strengths of the book is Freedman’s use of specifics: He tells stories about people who are doing what he advocates, communities that are working to mix the old and the young, and programs that he thinks are hopeful, including his own Generation to Generation, part of his organization encore.org. He also celebrates some individuals who have had an enduring effect on his own thinking and life, most notably the late John W. Gardner, the author of such classics as Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too? (1961), a man whom Freedman revered and who, the author tells us, once said that Freedman was like the son he never had. The author’s tone is enthusiastic and hopeful throughout, but the diction is occasionally clichéd (“the road hasn’t been entirely smooth”). Nonetheless, his enthusiasm is infectious and affecting, and his agenda bristles with sincerity and significance.
A book that grabs us by the shoulders, turns us toward an important issue, and grips us until we truly see and understand.