Jan 22

“Elderhood” Often Better Than You Fear

…(O)lder adults surpass younger adults on all measures, showing less stress, depression, worry, and anger, and more enjoyment, happiness, and satisfaction. Geriatrician Louise Aronson, Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life 

A physician specializing in the care of those of us over 60, Louise Aronson explores the various facets of this developmental stage most hope to reach—and in good enough health—in her book Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life.

The following is an excerpt from Elderhood about the attainment of older age:

For most people, early, middle, and advanced old age are significantly different. In our current conceptualization of old, physical degradations and lost options are its sine qua non. That’s why, until those things become overwhelming, many people don’t think of themselves as old, even when most younger people would swiftly and definitively put them in that category. When people arrive at the stereotypical version of old, they sometimes no longer feel like themselves, although for most of us the transition to old happens gradually over decades beginning at age twenty. The changes are both positive and negative, though we tend to focus on the latter. Those losses and diminutions are imperceptible at first, then easy to disregard, then possible to work around, and, finally, blatant.

Not only do most people focus on the negative changes but many in the medical field do as well. Harvey Freedenberg, Bookpage.com, regarding the “stubborn insistence on treating organs and diseases rather than whole human beings, often prizing science and technology over simple, compassionate care”:

These efforts typically trigger costly late-life interventions that may be successful in the narrowest sense, prolonging life for a time but often inflicting physical and psychological pain on their recipients that severely compromises their quality of life. Aronson advocates for a new care paradigm, focused on the ‘optimization of health and well-being,’ even when an earlier death may be the consequence.

Additional quotes from an author interview with Susan Pascal, mariashriver.com:

People often think of aging as an exclusively negative process and of old people as failed adults. In reality, aging and living are essentially the same process, socially and biologically, and elderhood is a highly varied life phase that lasts twenty to forty years.

In elderhood, people tend to be comfortable with who they are and more confident about their priorities. They often have less stress, both personally and professionally, and more time for all the things people complain about not being able to do as much as they’d like during adulthood. It’s not that the physical changes and health challenges of aging don’t matter; it’s that they are one part of larger and much more interesting story.

In sum, Aronson talking with Christina Ianzito, AARP:

“People look at geriatrics and old age as the thing that happens before you die,” she adds. “No. It lasts decades and has all these stages and substages and most of them are quite wonderful for most people. A big message of the book is that so much of what’s horrible about old age isn’t about aging nearly as much as it is about our dysfunctional approach to it.”

Aug 12

“Still Mine”: Determined Against Odds to Help Declining Wife

Still Devoted. Still Determined. Tagline for Still Mine

Still Mine is a new Canadian film by writer/director Michael McGowan that’s based on a true story about an older couple, together 61 years, in which wife Irene (Geneviève Bujold) is showing significant signs of decline. Her husband Craig (James Cromwell) sets out to build the smaller house she needs, getting himself in trouble by defying local building codes and such.

Rex Reed, New York Observer, calls Still Mine a “sensitively made, superbly acted and deeply moving” film that’s “without the melodrama, pessimism or sentimentality” of other comparable movies like Amour and Unfinished Song. “Yes, it’s about the inevitable consequences of growing old, but nobody dies, and you go away energized with optimism. If you have ever had a friend, neighbor or grandparent like James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold, you can almost look forward to being an octogenarian. They are nothing short of magnificent.”

Watch the trailer below:

Kudos to Cromwell

By all accounts, Cromwell’s performance is the highlight of the film.

Geoff PevereThe Globe and Mail:

While Still Mine pays close attention to matters like the fading family farm, increasingly intrusive bureaucratic regulations and the heartbreaking ordeal of losing a mate to irreversibly worsening dementia, its main spectacle is Cromwell’s Craig Morrison, a man built like a scarecrow and usually standing alone like one, and whose default mode of ornery sarcasm keeps him at a prickly distance from everyone around. As played by the remarkably effective Cromwell, an actor too often consigned to the margins of character performances, Morrison is a man of considerable complexity and frustrating bullheadedness, but always true to his own – if not the building inspector’s – code…

…(T)he movie’s considerable inspirational heft is provided not by Craig’s up-against-the-system quixotism but his persistent individualism, the deep-seated conviction that nobody knows his land, his business, his wood or his wife anywhere near as well as he does, and he’ll go to jail before he’ll admit any differently. The point isn’t that he’s right, but that he so firmly believes he is, he’ll build a house on it.

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “‘Still Mine’ is Mr. Cromwell’s film from first scene to closing credits…he is always present, alive and real, with a wealth of understated feelings. This is the greatest performance of his rich career.”

John Anderson, Newsday: “What would otherwise have been be a rather banal David-Goliath story…is elevated by Cromwell into something more weighty, and even existentially profound.”

The Couple

Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times: “…(I)t’s the intimate moments between Craig and Irene, be they of reverie, passion, devotion or frustration, that truly elevate this beautifully shot picture. Cromwell and Bujold, while significantly younger than their late-80s characters (though the petite Bujold, with her flowing white hair and lived-in skin, more visually fills the bill), inhabit their roles with nobility, grace and the wisdom of age.”

Chuck Wilson, Village Voice: “…a surprisingly sensual long-term marriage.”

Friends and Family

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “My one caveat is that, with the exception of one concerned but mostly exasperated daughter, the Morrisons’ seven grown children rarely offer advice or even a helping hand to parents in trouble, and Irene doesn’t seem to know any of them anyway. They get more aid from a young, frustrated lawyer (another wonderful performance by Campbell Scott).”

Jan 31

“Quartet”: A Film About Aging With Hope

QUARTET is a wickedly comic film about redefining old age and growing old with hope; demonstrating how art illuminates life and the human spirit remains undimmed even as the brightest stars start to fade.” BBC

A current film about aging that could be used for “movie therapy” is the enjoyable Quartet. The entire setting is Britain’s Beecham House, a retirement home for musicians. And not just any musicians—very accomplished ones.

Upon learning this up front while watching the movie, I had to wonder…what would it be like to be in a similar facility for aging therapists? Would such a thing even be desirable? How might I feel about that? I hear you asking how you might feel about that. Geez, just tell me! How would I feel about that?!?

Well, anyway…it’s based on a stage play by Ronald Harwood. “The central drama involves the retired singer Reggie Paget (Tom Courtenay, who starred in ‘The Dresser’ and ‘Doctor Zhivago‘ all those years ago, and even before that the powerful 1962 drama ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner’),” states Roger Ebert about Quartet: “Settled and content, he is seeking a comfy senility in Beecham House, he says. Then another retired legend arrives. This is Jean Horton (Maggie Smith). We learn that she cheated on Reggie within hours of their marriage, and although he’s always been in love with her, he has never forgiven her.”

The trailer:

Selected Reviews

Kyle Smith, New York Post: “‘Quartet’ isn’t a penetrating inquiry into aging. Who wants that? We all know the facts, so let’s not begrudge some fancy.”

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: “Everyone onscreen is experienced enough to realize that we create our own fates, regardless of the directions in which we are pushed.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “In their most poignant exchange, Ms. Smith asks ‘Why did we have to get old?’ and Mr. Courtenay says, ‘That’s what people do.’ But few do it with such grace and dignity, in a film with so much affection, tenderness and charm.”