When you think of retirement, do you picture leisurely cruise vacations and afternoons on the golf course? If you base your perception of retired life on what movies show it to be, you might think that it is endless tedium. To some people, the prospect of entering the twilight years is scary enough without Hollywood’s stereotypical depictions of elderly people playing Bingo and yelling at kids to get off their yard. That’s when Hollywood deigns to depict retirees at all, of course.
Retirement should be a time to finally enjoy your passions, be it exotic travel or relaxing hobbies. Read on to see the six ways Hollywood makes retirement look ridiculous and what you can truly expect when you bid farewell to the workforce.
In “Dumb and Dumber,” Jim Carrey’s character says to an elderly lady: “I guess they’re right. Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose. I’ll be right back. Don’t you go dying on me!” He gets his comeuppance, because the lady rides off with his beer. The tongue-in-cheek line, however, underscores a perception promoted by Hollywood: that once you enter retirement, you are no longer relevant to society. In reality, people do not become obsolete the moment they retire. Many stay involved by volunteering, taking care of grandchildren, performing civic duties, and working part-time.
In the 1985 film “Cocoon,” the inhabitants of a Florida retirement home spend their days engaged in dull activities. Mortality hangs over them like a cloud. It takes a swimming pool filled with alien cocoons, a veritable fountain of youth, to reinvigorate the characters’ lives and give them a renewed sense of purpose.
People fear that once they enter retirement, they will be consigned to a boring life. Access to friends and family plays a role, but retired folks don’t have to give in to the idea that life holds no more adventures. Like Carl Fredricksen, the hero of “Up,” they can still take part in life’s many adventures.
Old Age is a “Disease”
Movies typically show the retired generation as sick in mind, body, or both. How many gags in films have relied on infantilizing the elderly? Even classics like “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and “Sunset Boulevard” have treated old age as a horror. When movies cater primarily to youth and beauty, it’s no wonder that those with some wrinkles and silver hairs get a bum rap.
However, baby boomers are changing the face of retirement. Healthier and more active than previous generations, many baby boomers can expect to enjoy more years of health and vigor, provided they take care of themselves now.
Ever since Ebenezer Scrooge of “A Christmas Carol,” many films have depicted the elderly as miserly and tightfisted, whether or not they actually face money problems. “Donnie Darko” features Roberta Sparrow, also known as “Grandma Death,” a woman who hoards her belongings in a large house and is known to be “loaded.” The retirees of “Going in Style” go so far as to rob a bank for the excitement as much as the money.
Finances are a valid concern for retirees. Many postpone retirement because of the economy, lack of savings, or other factors. Planning and saving for retirement early has never been more imperative. It’s particularly wise to open a Roth IRA, a nest egg that will provide security in the future. Other retirees retain a part-time job when the Social Security checks are inadequate.
Both “About Schmidt” and “Lost in America” show retirees hitting the road in RVs, finally free to travel. Perhaps movies depicting retirement as leisurely and relaxing are not ridiculous, but neither are they completely accurate. As mentioned before, many retirees keep a part-time job to maintain a comfortable lifestyle or to stay involved in the community. Many baby boomers are reluctant to commit to full-time leisure, preferring to keep a toe in the workforce or even start their own business.
Countless movies show retirees as depressed or listless. Whether it’s Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt” struggling to find life’s meaning or the widower in “Up” mourning his wife, films emphasize loneliness and sadness as given facts of old age. Depression is a treatable illness, not a normal part of aging. Being retired does not make you any more at risk of the illness. It just seems worse because depression can compound other health problems common in old age.
However Hollywood chooses to stereotype senior citizens, the fact is that many retirees are happy, active and financially secure members of society. You could still do them a favor, and stay off their lawns though