Hollywood: Wise Up on Aging

This week, we felt a chill in the air that can only mean one thing: Autumn. As the days get shorter, this weekend may be the perfect time for a Netflix marathon. But as an aging professional or simply someone concerned with the way older adults are depicted in Hollywood, what should be on your to-watch list?

Well, according to a recent article in the CALA News & Views magazine, there are films and television shows that fit the bill…although not as much as there should be. Stuart Greenbaum, a governor’s appointee to the California Commission on Aging and director of the “Wise Up On Aging” public-service campaign, writes:

As the state government’s primary advocate for older adults, the California Commission on Aging (CCOA) is leading an effort to encourage Hollywood to more authentically represent the aging population.
The “Hollywood Takes: On Aging” initiative convened a roundtable planning session earlier this year in Los Angeles with authorities from the fields of entertainment and aging to affirm the goal and plot strategies to use the influence of TV and film to showcase realistic, non-stereotypic portrayals of older adult characters and aging-related storylines.
The initiative’s newly launched social media campaign calls on Hollywood to #WiseUpOnAging. (Follow the campaign on Twitter @WiseUpOnAging.) The forward strides being made by multiple social justice campaigns, notably the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, reinforce the power of media and grassroots outreach to efficiently and effectively influence society on issues of diversity and equality…
Katherine Pieper, PhD, research scientist with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, explains, “As the conversation on inclusion in entertainment continues to expand, it is crucial that aging be a part of our dialogue. While the industry is growing more sensitized to these issues, we need greater momentum from audience members and decision-makers around issues of aging in media.”
USC research finds that ageist comments find a way onto too many screens. Researchers reported that ageist comments on TV appeared in 41 percent of the shows analyzed. More disturbing was the researchers’ concern that outdated tropes and misrepresentations tend to reinforce younger viewers’ negative conceptions of aging.
The Milken Institute is another prominent source attempting to enlighten Hollywood’s dark ages. “The concept of the older generation as a positive force is emerging, but far too slowly,” asserts the institute’s new report, The Power of Purposeful Aging, published by Milken’s Center for the Future of Aging.
“The reality is, as we age we start new chapters, we reinvent ourselves and we contribute,” observes Arielle Burstein, the Center’s associate director and an advisor to CCoA’s #WiseUpOnAging campaign. Burstein challenges Hollywood’s young creatives, in particular, to help reorient public perception and “normalize” this population: “Seek out the untold stories of aging to show us a roadmap to our own experiences.”

Here are some suggestions for viewing (for more options, Greenbaum suggests AARP’s “Movies for Grownups” and “TV for Grownups.”):


Queen Sugar (2016-2018)
Greenleaf (2016-2018)
Grace and Frankie (2015-2018)
NCIS (2003-2018)
River (2015)
Derek (2012-2014)
American Horror Story (2011-2015)
Golden Girls (1985-1992)
All in the Family (1971-1979)


Darkest Hour (2018)
Phantom Thread (2018)
The Big Sick (2017)
A Man Called Ove (2016)
The Intern (2015)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)
Danny Collins (2015)
The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
Philomena (2013)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
Quartet (2012)
More Than Me (2012)
Beginners (2011)
Up (2009)
The Bucket List (2007)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
In Her Shoes (2005)
On Golden Pond (1981)
Harold and Maude (1971)

One of the main goals of the #WiseUpOnAging initiative is to encourage the entertainment industry to include more positive portrayals of older adults by showing that it has an economic advantage. So, how can you do your part? Put your entertainment dollars to work! Consider purchasing or renting one of the movies and shows listed in the article. Better yet, raise awareness among fellow colleagues, associates, residents, families, and friends by holding an aging-positive viewing party. And share your own picks for authentic portrayals of older adults by using the hashtag #WiseUpOnAging!

This post excerpted from “Hollywood: Show Older Adults Due Respect” by Stuart Greenbaum, first published in CALA News & Views Issue 31: Elevate Aging. Click here to read the full article.

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