Spotlight On Seniors

By Kristen Castillo

April 21, 2021 5 min read

Historically ageism has been a problem in Hollywood. But slowly things are changing as more movies and TV shows are embracing older actors and senior storylines.

According to The Representation Project, a global nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all humans achieve their full potential, unencumbered by limiting gender norms, six of the 10 actors nominated for best actor and best actress at the 2019 Academy Awards, were 60 or older.

Nearly a third of the movie-viewing audience in theaters is over 50, too, and the median age of viewers for the top 10 TV shows range from late 40s to late 50s.

Here's a look at some of the TV shows and movies with a focus on people over 65.

*TV

Many classic and new TV shows portray life over 65.

While "The Golden Girls" first aired in the 1980s, the show, which ran for seven seasons, is still popular with fans of all ages. The comedy follows the lives of four senior women, who are retired roommates, in Miami.

Netflix comedy series "Grace and Frankie" has been showcasing strong senior female characters since the show debuted in 2015. The Emmy-nominated show follows Jane Fonda as Grace and Lily Tomlin as Frankie, two women who were once-rivals until their respective husbands left the women for each other.

Stephan Baldwin, founder of AssistedLivingCenter.com, provider of information on senior communities and other content for seniors, recommends "The Kominsky Method," a series about ageing, featuring Michael Douglas as Sandy Kominsky, an aging acting coach.

"This is a great depiction of life -- not only life in later years -- showing both the poignant and the funny sides of it," he says.

He also suggests the Netflix series "The Crown" as it follows, "one of the most famous and best-loved seniors in the world," the Queen of England. He says while the series might not be a general depiction of life over 65, "it's always great to see a powerful, older female character."

*Movies

Writer Christopher McKittrick, who covers film and entertainment for several outlets, lists two Clint Eastwood films, "Gran Torino" and "The Mule" as top films depicting senior life.

"Both depict elderly men who finds meaning in their final years in unexpected ways," he says.

Clint Eastwood produced, directed and portrayed the lead character, Walter "Walt" Kowalski, a widowed Korean War veteran in "Gran Torino." Walt develops a bond with Thao, a young Hmong teen, who tries to steal his prized car.

"Walt discovers the relationships he lacks with his own family with Thao's family and sacrifices himself to help Thao and his family escape gang violence," says McKittrick.

In "The Mule," which is based on a true story, Eastwood's character, Earl -- an absent husband and father -- inadvertently becomes a drug mule for Mexican cartels.

"With the money he earns, he endears himself to his friends, former wife, and granddaughter," says McKittrick. "But as the stakes of his trafficking get more dangerous, he begins to understand that the money is no replacement for the time and attention he should have given to his family."

"Bucket List," a drama-comedy starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, is an entertaining, yet sentimental journey as two terminally-ill seniors pair up to complete their bucket lists together.

"Up," an animated Pixar film, has lighter content that will tug at your heart. The main character, Carl, voiced by Ed Asner, is a senior who's resistant to change after the death of his beloved wife. "The film's opening depicting their marriage to a stirring score is one of the highlights of the movie," says McKittrick.

The Academy Award-winning movie follows Carl as he tries to float his house, with thousands of helium balloons, to South America. It's a dream vacation he and his wife had planned. Hilarity and heart ensue as he discovers a young stowaway, Russell, made the trip, too.

"Over the course of their adventure together, Carl's sense of adventure is restored as he become a grandfather figure to Russell," says McKittrick.

Luckily, many of these series and films are available on streaming services and on-demand. And the high viewership of these TV shows and movies may motivate Hollywood to make even more senior-centric content.

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