When you watch a film like Grumpy Old Men or Cocoon, do you consider it preparation – research into what’s to come? Well, I can make a case that you should. We’re constantly trying to delve into the senior psyche and discover what motivates them, what makes them happy, and how their views and attitudes toward aging have changed over time.
Thanks to Hollywood, there are a lot of movies that are not only entertaining, but at the core of the stories, center on this issue of how people deal with getting older. Here are a few examples:Grumpy Old Men (1993) – This film tells the story of two men who have been adversarial neighbors for decades. When one suffers a heart attack, both begin to realize their own mortality and travel down a road of self-discovery.
Cocoon (1985) – This film is about a group of people at a retirement community who are convinced by aliens that they can feel young again and live forever. It is intriguing to watch as they are rejuvenated, and then struggle with the decision of accepting the aliens’ offer of everlasting life over the natural progression to death.
Gran Torino (2008) – Clint Eastwood plays a cantankerous retired veteran who refuses to move into a retirement community even though his sons feel it’s best for him given his health. In an act of heroism to protect his neighbors (who he originally disliked) from a gang of thugs, the veteran gives up his life to save the day—going out on his terms.
About Schmidt (2002) – Jack Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a man struggling to find purpose in his life after retirement. Nicholson, once an important member of an insurance firm, finds his old work files and office contents set out with the garbage. Saddened that he hasn’t made a difference in anyone’s life, he spends the rest of the film trying to change that.
Driving Ms. Daisy (1989) – Jessica Tandy plays a 72-year-old, wealthy, white, Jewish widowed school teacher (Miss Daisy) who resents that her son hires a chauffeur named “Hoke” (played by Morgan Freeman) to drive her around. Miss Daisy and Hoke eventually form a strong friendship and the film takes us through the development of their friendship as aging adults over a number of years, in spite of racial tension and prejudices.
All these films embrace the idea that as we age, we become more aware of our mortality – the realization that we have a finite amount of time on this planet – and all of the baggage that comes along with it. To cope with this, people will strive to find purpose, retain independence, maintain control and create new relationships. Thanks to Hollywood, we get to look at life through the lenses of our elders – watching movies that help us figure out what’s important in life, without having to live a whole lifetime.