Timeless Entertainment: Growing Old with Films

Three eldery people stand on a beach, in conversation.
Through shared stories, we can help one another along our journeys into old age.
Image source: CDC via wikimediacommons.org

Many people would agree that art gives life much of its meaning. Storytelling in general, and film in particular, can do wonders to raise our spirits, and shed some much-needed perspective on our lives. What greater way is there to learn and relax than through witnessing a heartwarming story?

While I have fond memories of watching my favorite movies during childhood when I had the flu or stayed home sick, I find that I now relish films in a deeper way as I grow further into adulthood.

We’ve discussed how a certain amount of fear is inevitable and appropriate as we age. This makes sense: growing old is something that is new to each and every one of us. Plus, our society tends to incorrectly view aging as scary and undesirable, which adds an unnecessary wrinkle to the experience. But the truth is that aging is full of opportunities to learn more about ourselves, our loved ones, and life itself.

Cinematic mirrors

It’s always helpful to be reminded of this; one easy and effective way is to turn to storytelling for comfort. When done well, films can be unfettered gateways to empathy, perspective, reassurance, and understanding. Aging is often difficult to speak about candidly, but watching a film offers a simple way to open up a casual dialogue, and share information in a non-confrontational way.

One classic example of visual media that reveals the reality of the aging process is the “Up Series.” Highly recommended, this is an ongoing series of documentary films, produced by Granada Television, that follows “the lives of 14 British children since 1964.” The long-running program depicts growing old with due respect and authenticity.

 

 

Additionally, there’s an abundance of interesting, quirky tales — of both the fiction and non-fiction variety — on hand to motivate us to think positively about growing old. For instance, the documentary film Ping Pong, that “follows eight people with a combined age of 700 as they head to China to compete in the over 80s Table Tennis Championships,” is both fun and touching. Tatie Danielle offers a whip-smart elderly female protagonist in an unexpected storyline. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button runs on a neat visual trick while offering some wholehearted contemplation on what growing old really means.

 

 

One of the most affecting films I’ve seen is Sarah Polley’s Away From Her, featuring renowned actress Julie Christie as an elderly woman dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s. The story, adapted from author Alice Munro’s acclaimed book, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, follows Christie’s character as she experiences her former life drifting away and a husband who doesn’t quite know how to handle losing his wife to dementia.

 

 

With an understandably melancholic undertone, the film eloquently reveals unexpected pockets of wisdom as it unfolds. Anyone faced with meeting the challenge of losing a loved one to old age, illness, or dementia will be able to relate with the film’s mixture of uplifting moments and emotional troughs.

Watching films that handle the subject matter of aging with respect can help bring us fresh, positive insight about growing old. Consider treating yourself to some quality entertainment this week — you never know what inspiration you might find.

Have you seen any films that depict the aging process particularly well?

The trained and compassionate staff at the Institute of Aging has many resources for individuals moving through the aging process, as well as information on how to gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more. 

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Institute on Aging

Committed to offering thoughtful discussions and resources to older adults, their families, and their caregivers.

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