Yesterday evening, after another exhausting day here at the retirement home, I dropped onto the couch for my after-dinner nap. I grabbed the remote and began surfing, looking for entertainment to while away the dark hours. “As usual,” I grumbled, “nothing to watch.” Channel after channel – bad news and worse news or basketball, snooker and soccer. What entertainment there was, is now all shooting mixed with car chases, more shooting and wrecking cars in the most diabolical fashion imaginable. And then, right in the middle of all the violence, a flickering black and white movie introduced by a moth-eaten lion. “Arsenic and Old Lace”. I reached for the chocolate and settled deeper into the couch.
Of course I had seen it before, long, long ago, but there is still magic in its old-fashioned actors, acting and technology. Everything about it is ‘olde worlde’ charming. I wondered if I would have to stand up for God Save the King at the end.
My wife walked in and sat down, watched for a couple of minutes and said, “What on earth are you watching?”
“Arsenic and Old Lace,” I replied.
“Gee! What year was this made?”
“That’s 70 years ago! You’re watching a movie made 70 years ago? What’s the matter with you?”
“How many years?”
I was 11 years old in 1944. I’m pretty sure that my mother never took her 11 year old son to see a movie called Arsenic and Old Lace in the year it was released but I probably saw it a year or two later and I have probably seem it a few times since then. It’s still a great movie.
It just goes to prove: Some things never age – they just get older.
Going out from the retirement home to see a movie set in another retirement home sounds rather ridiculous, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. The movie we went to see was “Quartet”, Dustin Hoffman’s directing debut, set in a retirement home in England and a great production.
My first thought as the story began was that the film could have been set in our own retirement home, so familiar were some of the scenes and the conversations among the residents. Retirement residents gossip; it’s part of their daily agenda. They talk about people inside the home and they discuss people and events outside the home. They are great on social scandals and are past the age of lowering their voices when touching on a sensitive subject. They also complain, but it’s always about some completely trivial matter. Retirement homes are expensive places so the residents feel they have a right to complain if they think they are not getting their money’s worth. In the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, the retirees were there because they had sought out or had been talked into retiring to a run-down, a cheap retirement place in Jaipur, India. Not so in “Quartet” which was set in a magnificent English estate with rich furnishings and lush, leafy gardens.
Dustin Hoffman chose his cast and his setting well and then added some great voices and opera to his story. In our retirement home we have a lot of music in various forms – lectures, concerts, recitals and movies. I have only seen one resident playing on the piano in the dining room, but I know there are many music mavens here. They make themselves heard in all the other music events. But we’re not quite in the Quartet class.
We old, um… senior sports fans watch a lot of TV here at the retirement home; My mother would have yelled, “You’re watching too much TV! Go read a book instead!”
At the moment, Mom, I think I’m averaging about 16 hours a day TV. That includes the nights when I sleep. On my sleepless nights I can easily hit 20 hours. I watch any time, morning, noon and night… Luckily the earth is round so there’s always something on.
My main channel is the sports. We had a good summer of Tennis and Football, followed by a fall of Snooker and now we are in the depths of winter and winter sports. Nothing could be more boring. One of the old guys here in the retirement home voiced it: “If I have to watch another downhill race or ski jump I’ll start screaming…”
Unless the channels come up with another exciting sport soon I’ll have to turn to the crime channels where I can pick up yet another modus operandi for my unwritten murder novel. Have you watched some of these crime movies? Have you seen the depths that crime writers think normal humans can sink to?
This is just a gentle reminder to the folks back at the TV studios. We are seniors, we have been around a long time; we have seen and forgotten things you haven’t even thought of yet. If you are all out of sports and you want to spare us from watching crime or worse, take another look at the some of the old movies on Turner Classic Movies or MGM. We grew up in World War II – where are all the old war movies? And the comedies, the guys that made us laugh? Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Walter Matthau? Those were the great movies from our own times and they had us rolling in the aisles all those years ago. We could use some of that laughter now that we are older, a lot wiser but still stuck with the TV you dish up for us.
We went to see the movie ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ last evening. The movie follows a group of British retirees who decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. It is a good laugh and highly entertaining, but I found my mind wandering to a different scenario with a not-so-funny outcome. I know many couples who are in their late 70s and early 80s who keep turning away when we mention that we live a retirement home. They are avoiding the subject and delaying the decision. It’s an easy path to follow and often prompted by economics. I went that way through my 70s but finally woke up in a panic one morning and took steps.
If you don’t make the decision while you are still thinking clearly, someone else will eventually make it for you, perhaps or most likely, one or all of your children and that’s when you could land up spending your Golden Years in the Best Exotic Marigold Retirement Home, or worse. The hotel turned out to be fine for the folks who went there, but if it wasn’t a movie, I doubt they would have enjoyed it.
The retirement home we chose is fine and much of the time fun and a great place to be. The majority of the residents come from the same background, are all reasonably educated, all speak the same languages and are equally tolerant about religion. We all seem to be happy with the same food and the same temperature of the air from the conditioning system. We enjoy the same movies and we all agree not to discuss politics.
But imagine if it wasn’t like that. Life would be irritating, back-biting and unpleasant and that’s exactly what could happen when someone other than you decides where you are going to spend your Golden Years.
We old and ancient sports fans watch a lot of TV here at the retirement home; “Too much,” my mother would say. “You’re not allowed more than 1 hour a day!”
At the moment, Mom, I think I’m averaging about 16 hours a day and that includes the nights when I sleep. On sleepless nights the average soars. I watch any time, morning, noon and night… Luckily the earth is round so there’s always something on.
In addition to watching what’s showing now, we seniors always look ahead. When it was the world cup football we knew athletics would follow in the run-up to the Olympics. This was followed by the US Gold open. Then came the Olympic Games themselves, with spectacular ceremonies and weeks of fascinating and exciting swimming and athletics. That ended and we hardly had time to catch our collective breaths when the US Open tennis final was upon us, providing some great entertainment. It is now heading into the quarter-finals, meaning that it will end this coming weekend.
So what’s next on the box? If there is no more sports, and sports includes snooker, which has become a senior TV watcher’s favorite, we’ll be back to watching crime or worse, the romantic stuff they feed us. The best alternative when there is no decent sports are the old movies on Turner Classic Movies or MGM. But even these channels are stingy with what they dish up. We grew up in World War II – where are all the old war movies? And the comedies, the guys that made us laugh? Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Walter Matthau? Those were the great movies from our own times and they had us rolling in the aisles all those years ago. We could use some of that laughter now that we are older, a lot wiser and too easily bored.