Roles For Older Adults in Film and The Academy Awards

indexIt’s wonderful to see so many talented older thespians gracing the big screen in popular movies these days. This year’s Academy Award nominations honoured several roles portrayed by older adults (60+).

Below is a sample of the outstanding roles portrayed by older actors and actresses in 2015 film:

  1. Creed. Sylvester Stallone, age 69, is nominated for best actor in a supporting role as the former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa.
  2. 45 Years. Charlotte Rampling, age 69, is nominated for best actress for her portrayal of a woman who learns that her husband was once engaged to another woman shortly before their 45th wedding anniversary.
  3. Mad Max Fury Road. Nominated for best picture. Hugh Keays-Byrne, age 69, plays the primary antagonist. Keays-Byrne is reprising his original role from the first Mad Max film made in 1979.
  4. The Martian. Jeff Daniels, age 61, plays a NASA administrator in the best picture nominated film The Martian.
  5. Spotlight. Nominated for best picture. Michael Keaton, age 64, portrays the editor of the Spotlight team in this true story on how the Boston Globe uncovered a cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese.

Cheer on your favourite nominee during the 88th annual academy awards ceremony on Sunday, February 28th.


Arts and Aging: Writing About The Emotional Journey of Downsizing

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ~ Philip Pullman

Downsizing can be a very emotional experience. The act of sorting through and deciding the fate of personal possessions can elicit a flood of long forgotten memories. A number of authors have written about their own emotional journey while downsizing their parent’s homes. Filled with laughter and sadness the memoirs listed below are two such examples.

They Left Us Everything

“After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father, and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year-old mother—author Plum Johnson and her three younger brothers experience conflicted feelings of grief and relief when their mother, the surviving parent, dies.

Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, which hasn’t been de-cluttered in more than half a century. Twenty-three rooms bulge with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks.

Plum remembers her loving but difficult parents who could not have been more different: the British father, a handsome, disciplined patriarch who nonetheless could not control his opinionated, extroverted Southern-belle wife who loved tennis and gin gimlets.

The task consumes her, becoming more rewarding than she ever imagined. Items from childhood trigger memories of her eccentric family growing up in a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario in the 1950s and 60s. But unearthing new facts about her parents helps her reconcile those relationships with a more accepting perspective about who they were and what they valued.”

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

“In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”-with predictable results-the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies-an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades-the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.”

Do you have a favourite memoir that broaches the challenges of downsizing?

Arts and Aging: The Silvering Screen

The-Intern-new-posterIt appears that Hollywood is continuing to devote more screen time to portraying older adults and their unique life experiences.

A popular new film starring Robert De Niro (age 72) entitled The Intern explores a widower’s entry back into the business world as an intern at an online fashion site run by a young entrepreneur. The movie explores the emerging trend of older adults reentering the workplace after retirement.

Another recent movie entitled Ricki and the Flash stars Meryl Streep (age 66) as an aging musician who gave up family life to follow her dream of rock and roll stardom. As an article in Senior Planet suggests, the plot “might have put its finger on a predicament that’s fairly unique to aging Boomers; we were the first generation to claim self-fulfillment as our birthright, and many of us chose to put duty and responsibility aside to follow our dreams”.

Coming out later this month, Bill Murray’s (age 65) character joins the world of aging rock and roll personalities in the movie Rock the Kasbah. Loosely based on a true story, Murray’s character is thrown into current politics when he decides to represent an emerging female singer in Afghanistan.

Continuing on the aging rocker theme, Al Pacino (age 75) stars in the movie Danny Collins. The film is based on a true story about “an aging rock star that decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon”. This movie is explores the ups and downs of creating your own second act in later life.

Speaking of second acts, many older adults in the United States are reaping the benefits of actively engaging in the arts by joining local theatre groups. According to an article in the Star Tribune, “theater groups for seniors have popped up all over the country over the past two decades. In 1997, there were 79; now there are more than 800”.

It appears that both professional and aspiring actors will increasingly continue to find ways to engage in the performing arts as the population ages. See you at the theatre!

Arts and Aging: Enriching Communities Through the Performing Arts

There is extensive and robust evidence that engagement in meaningful activities, such as participation in the arts, contributes to a wide range of positive health outcomes including personal control, self-esteem, physical health, functional independence, cognitive function and lower mortality rates. Participation also reduces health inequalities, promotes independence and reduces reliance on health services and the cost of providing them.”
~ University of Alberta Research on Aging, Policies, and Practice

Engaging in the performing arts is one of the ways older adults can reap the associated benefits of active participation in creative expression.

Founded in 1978, Stagebridge is oldest theatre company “for and of seniors” in the United States. One of the many programs offered at Stagebridge provides opportunities to demonstrate “in action the many ways in which elders improve and enrich our culture and our communities”. Storybridge is an intergenerational experience using “specially trained elders” to engage at-risk local students through storytelling. To see the Storybridge program in action check out the video below: