Films can help us make sense of the world and understand different perspectives—which makes those that portray older adults in a positive light perfect for caregivers and their loved ones to enjoy together. Such experiences are an excellent way to offset the usual negativity surrounding aging in the media as well as any negative thoughts that have been internalized.
Movie nights can also be the perfect way to relax and bond while enjoying a story that could lead to better mutual understanding and patience for the challenges you each face. Whether the film you choose is sad, funny or inspiring, watching it together can encourage a sense of connection and act as a reminder that your relationship extends beyond giving and receiving care.
Golden Years (2016)
Retirees Arthur and Martha Goode find out the hard way their golden years aren’t going to be as bright as they had planned after their pensions are squandered by greedy bankers. But instead of accepting their fate, the couple joins forces with their fellow defrauded pensioners to form a Robin Hood-style bank robbing team. By portraying older people as fighting back and not taking any guff, this hilarious British slapstick comedy smashes stereotypes of feebleness and victimhood. Film critic Andrew L. Urban described it as, “Founded on solidly serious themes of aging, dying, illness and crime, the film does not on the surface offer much hope for fun, but the surface is exactly where the fun is.”
Senior Moment (2021)
Available: Showtime, Amazon, Hulu
Retired NASA test pilot Victor Martin ends up on the bus after his love for drag racing his classic Porsche around Palm Springs results in the unfortunate revocation of his driver’s license—a refreshing change from the familiar trope of older people puttering along in the slow lane. Victor, played by 90-year-old William Shatner, proves that getting older really isn’t about slowing down. Instead, he manages to find love despite being banned from the fast lane in this silly romantic comedy. And while the leading man does try out the Hollywood stereotype of pursuing a significantly younger woman, in the end, he realizes the right person for him is also in her golden years (Jean Smart, 70).
A Man Called Ove (2015)
Film critic Linda Marric promises “A Man Called Ove” will “have you howling with laughter one minute and sobbing the next.” Based on the book by Fredrik Backman, this Swedish film may be more of a challenge than the others on the list, but if your loved one is a fan of foreign films, it will be well worth any assistance you might need to provide with the subtitles. An English version starring Tom Hanks and retitled A Man Called Otto is slated for release on Dec. 14, 2022.
To be fair, “A Man Called Ove” does start with a bit of a stereotypical cranky old-man premise, but it’s the transformation in the character that matters. Between being widowed and no longer needed at work, it seems the only thing keeping Ove going is enforcing the most inane rules around his neighborhood. Angry at the world and disappointed with life, he decides not to endure his remaining years. Luckily for Ove, the chaos of new neighbors moving in saves him from himself. He learns new definitions of friendship, family and community from the pregnant mother, Parvaneh, who refuses to be deterred by his attitude, and finds out there’s plenty of warmth and joy left to come in spite of how cruel the world has been. (Trigger warning: attempted suicide.)
The Way (2010)
Available: Google Play
Tom – an American doctor played by Martin Sheen – flies to France to collect his late son’s remains after the younger man dies in a storm on the Camino de Santiago. In an attempt to understand both himself and his son better, he sets out on the same pilgrimage—carrying the box of ashes with him to spread along the way. In doing so, he learns what it means to really live again—or, as his son said, “You don’t choose a life . . . you live one.” This heartwarming tale is a great reminder that life doesn’t always turn out as planned, but you can still make the most out of your golden years.
A Walk in the Woods (2015)
Robert Redford and Nick Nolte join forces for this septuagenarian adventure that takes them along the Appalachian Trail—a trek so intense most people fail to complete it. The pair presses on through challenges that could take out much younger hikers, with plenty of laughs along the way. John Anderson, a critic for America Magazine, wrote: “A Walk in the Woods has a redemptive tone, a gentle lesson about aging and limitations and never giving up despite any required climb, uphill or otherwise.”
The Bucket List (2007)
Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson team up in this iconic film about finding joy even as life draws to a close. Thrown together in a hospital room, the pair has little in common aside from terminal illness. Yet, they discover there’s still so much they both want to do, see and understand before they die. Instead of letting age and illness stop them, they embark on a road trip against doctor’s orders, bucket lists in hand.
While helping your loved one make and fulfill a bucket list may sound morbid, it’s an ingenious way to give them the kind of novel experiences that will enhance their golden years and make this time of life memorable for both of you. Consider using this film as a jumping-off point to encourage them to share the things they might still want to try but think they can’t do due to their age.
The Second Time Around (2016)
Independent senior Katherine Mitchell (Linda Thorson) wasn’t planning on moving to a care facility or falling in love again at her age—but sometimes life has its own plans. After a broken hip changes her trajectory, Katherine takes a chance on Isaac Shapiro (Stuart Margolin) and ends up fulfilling her lifelong dream of seeing the opera in Italy on her new love’s arm. “This heartwarming tale keeps its narrative sweet and simple as it explores a brand of love that rarely makes its way to the silver screen,” wrote film critic Brian Thompson.