When curled up on the couch with a cold or sheltered warmly against an autumn rainstorm, what is your go-to movie? Is it a funny comedy, a sappy romance, an energizing action flick? Much like our music preferences, our favorite movies are often a reflection of the time era we grew up in, a generational indicator. When planning activities for seniors, the featured movie deserves some serious consideration.
First, know your audience. Whom, exactly, are you trying to appeal to? The average age of a nursing home resident is around age 85. That means that most of them were born sometime around 1926. That’s a lot of history and important events they have lived through: the Great Depression, World War II, the rise and fall of Communism, the assassination of JFK, the race riots and passing of equal rights laws, September 11th, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Elvis Pressley’s heyday, 1980’s hair bands….the list could continue on and on for, well, for 85 years.
With that much context, it can be really overwhelming to try and choose one movie that would speak to the residents. So, where to start? In the words of a famous musical (which would be a great choice for an elderly movie night, by the way) “Let’s start at the very beginning…it’s a very good place to start!”
We have a special connection to the movies that we saw as a child, which is perhaps especially important for Alzheimer sufferers and others with dementia. But if you were born in the 1970’s (for example), how are you to know what movies would stand out for someone born in the 1930’s? While recognized classics like “Casa Blanca” or “To Kill A Mockingbird” are obvious (and appropriate) choices, working your way back through old Oscar winner lists is also a way to hit some of the years’ highlights.
You could also have a theme movie run of some of the most ridiculous films of the decade. “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “the Blob” could provide amusement as well as spark old memories. Instead of bad horror flicks, what about old Westerns? I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love John Wayne? There are also a number of movies that celebrate old age and a long full life, like The Bucket List and Mr. Holland’s Opus.
While considering which movies to pick, you also need to think about which ones to avoid. While you can’t account for everyone’s experiences, there are sensitive generational experiences shared by those in the nursing home age demographic that you should consider: World War II and the Vietnam War for example. Try to pick a movie that doesn’t focus on an overwhelmingly negative or volatile topic.
What other movie suggestions do you have for an elderly audience? What other things do you need to consider?
Thanks to fauxto_digit for use of their image!