Once again a movie I originally didn't consider for watching gave me a pleasant surprise. This time around was "The Best Exotic Marigolg Hotel", a British production (from what I understand) directed by John Madden. In it, basically seven elderly Brits go to stay for different reasons at a hotel in India, which looks fabulous on the brochure, but turns out to be a place in shambles. The plot sounds quite like a cliché, and it does lean a lot on clichés (young love against society, the interaction between the wise elderly and the dreamy youth and so on, or the idea of people getting together from different backgrounds and interacting, getting somewhere together, like in a case of "MTV Real World Senior Citizen"), but from the first moment on the story rips away from the cliché, breaks the mold and shows you a naked truth that people isn't willing to realize: how our elderly are treated.
You may say the movie is full of clichés about elderly people, but it did got me thinking about how our societies treat them time and again, and also how we ourselves are treated by society. Then maybe perhaps this awareness is the result of being suddenly closer to the elderly of my own family, which indeed has given me a glimpse into their world and the conditions in which they live.
As most preconceptions about any group of people or "segment", one common mistake is to put all elderly people under one same category and think they are all the same: weak, unable to function by themselves, retarded when it comes to modern life, and above all, a burden to society. Many expect them to live at the margin of society, safely tucked away in their homes or at elderly homes, sitting in rocking chairs, wearing thick glasses and diapers while knitting something for the grandchildren. Elderly people who still have energy and work the land, manage a business or take on whatever job or activity, is looked at with surprise, and people wonder when are they going to break or when will they fall off to give space to modern times.
Our society is disregarding towards them, impatient and rude, and the only time they turn their attention towards them is when they view them as a market segment which can be exploited to sell them goods and services - many of which have been designed and developed by young people with no real consultation about what they really want and really need. Adult diapers, medication, homes for the elderly, even tours for the elderly, as if they had to be taken aside from the rest of the world, as if this way society could prevent they get in the way of modern times. The idea that they are waiting only to die, instead of wanting to keep living, or ignoring that they may still have dreams, that things can hurt them... these all are done to them day after day, and on many levels.
In a way, this situation reminded me that of Childfree woman, and how we are regarded by society. All woman are expected to want to be married and want to become mothers, and want to devote every single moment of their lives and happily give up everything for their children, so when any woman falls off this mold, this expectation, she's pressured to go back into the line and stop disturbing the "flow of society". Well, so is with the elderly. However, there where the rebelious women run against reproval and social bullying, the elderly run into closed doors, and constant ignoring.
Truth is that being elderly isn't being less of a person, though society insist on making you look and feel like an outdated, rejected ex-person, a carcas that should be tucked away where it interferes with nobody's life until they die and leave their place to someone else, someone young. Truth is, however, that life can start over at 70 or 80, that you don't need to be young to enjoy life, and being retired doesn't equal being useless or "out of circulation". We will all get old sooner or later, and we are living longer and longer lives, so maybe it's time to start making plans and dreaming about the life we want to have after retirement, and not stop on the traditional dreams of a family, a good job, a house with white picked fence and a dog.
If you can, check out this movie, and it may inspire you some thoughts too.