SENIOR POWER: Senior Moments in the Dark

By Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Thursday July 18, 2013 - 09:18:00 PM

Of the many negative stereotypes that exist about older adults, the most common is that we are forgetful, senile and prone to so-called "senior moments." In fact, research from the USC Davis School of Gerontology reveals that, while cognitive processes do indeed decline with age, simply reminding older adults about ageist ideas exacerbates their memory problems. It is an extension of the idea of "stereotype threat" — that when people are confronted with negative stereotypes about a group with which they identify, they tend to self-handicap and underperform. In so doing, they inadvertently confirm the negative stereotypes they were worried about in the first place. 

Several films thought to appeal to older audiences, or films with themes closely related to aging, have been nominated for Oscars and other awards. The AARP Movies for Grownups Awards began as a magazine feature 12 years ago. The 2013 Awards include these two, available as DVD’s and in libraries’ collections: Bernie, for best comedy, with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black; and Ben Lewin, best screenwriter, for The Sessions. They are all winners, but it is difficult (for me) in many instances to ken the special appeal for older audiences or their having themes closely related to aging. 



Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede II (born 1958) is a convicted American murderer who confessed to shooting wealthy, East Texas widow-woman Marjorie Nugent. Forty-four year old Thomas Jacob "Jack" Black is an American actor, comedian, writer, and musician who plays at being Bernie Tiede‎ in the semi-factual motion picture titled Bernie.  

Carthage is a small East Texas town whose “notable people” include singer Tex Ritter and mortician Bernie Tiede. East Texas runs along the western border of Louisiana. Carthage is on a line with Shreveport, Louisiana. In the 2000 Census, Carthage males’ median income was $33,080, and females $21,473. 

In 1998, journalist Skip Hollandsworth published an article about the Bernie Tiede affair in the Texas Monthly. His clever title, "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas," relied on John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a 1994 non-fiction best-seller and later a film directed by Clint Eastwood. 

Bernie relies heavily on LOL humor -- little old ladies. Mind… I’m not saying they’re not lifelike! They are caricatures that people from a-way might consider parody. Be sure to view the DVD Special Features’ deleted scenes, an interview with the real Bernie (in prison), and Carthaginians auditioning. Was there (is there) really a “MRS. SENIOR CARTHAGE” competition? (Yes) Did Bernie’s qualifications consist of a Louisiana “associate in mortuary science”? Why does Shirley MacLaine make a picture that suppresses her talents? Possible reasons: she’s an old (79) woman who likes to work. 


Mark O’Brien was a Catholic poet and journalist who lived in Berkeley, California. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and Whole Earth Review. He spent most of his life in an iron lung. The Sessions is adapted from his essay (The Sun, May 1990) about having sex for the first time at the age of thirty-six. He was also the subject of the 1996 Academy Award–winning documentary Breathing Lessons. He died in July 1999 from post-polio syndrome. 

The Sessions (originally titled The Surrogate) is a 2012 American independent drama film written and directed by Ben Lewin. "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate” was about a poet paralyzed from the neck down due to polio, who hired a sex surrogate in order to lose his virginity. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt star as O'Brien and sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene, respectively. Cohen-Greene was a consultant to the film. Local scenes are appealing. The power goes off in the middle of the night (think iron lung). 


Probably the film dealing with aging that has received the most attention recently is 2012’s Amour. (Not the 1971 Amour film made in Denmark.) This award-winning, Austrian film is set in France and is not a Hollywood product. Amour is about a devoted couple, both music teachers, married for many years. It begins with a brigade of firefighters breaking down the door of an apartment in Paris to find the corpse of Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) lying on a bed, adorned with cut flowers. 

The wife had had a stroke that began the painful, irreversible decline. The film is based on an identical situation that happened in writer-director Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's family. The issue that interested him most was how to manage the suffering of someone you love. 

Emmanuelle Riva, 85, is the oldest person ever nominated for a best actress Oscar. Her role in Amour shows how we, the older audience, are changing the face of cinema. Amour has won awards not usually possible for “small” foreign-language films lacking much recognition-- the Cannes Film Festival, the British Academy of Film and Television Awards, critics’ organizations. Amour also has Oscar nominations for best picture, best director, best screenplay and best foreign film! It has played in the San Jose area; although not in libraries, the DVD can be ordered for purchase from Amazon. 







On Thursday, August 1. 1:30 – 2:45 P.M. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 510-526-3720, speakers from the Oakland Family Search Library will show genealogists of all levels how to get the most out of their ancestry searches. This talk will focus primarily on discovering sources of information, learning how to search the records, using card catalogs and on-line indices, and exploring and Reservations not required. For more information, call the Alameda County Library’s Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491. 

In June 2013, the Administration on Aging published a Notice of Proposed Rule-  

Making in the Federal Register to strengthen and clarify how State Long-Term Care Ombudsmen (SLTCO) implement and operate their programs. SLTCO and their representatives resolve complaints and advocate for the rights of residents in nursing facilities, assisted living, and board and care facilities. There has been difficulty in fully implementing the program, causing inconsistency among states in the quality of Ombudsman services provided to residents. Proposed rule topics include: 

* Responsibilities of the State Ombudsman, State Unit on Aging, and Representatives of the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman related to the program operations 

* Consistent approaches to resolving complaints on behalf of residents 

* Appropriate role of ombudsmen in resolving abuse complaints 

* Conflicts of Interest-processes for identifying and remedying conflicts so that residents have access to effective Ombudsman services. 

Go to Medline and read more about Ombudsman services and Patient rights. As a patient, you have certain rights. Some are guaranteed by federal law, such as the right to get a copy of your medical records, and the right to keep them private. Many states have additional laws protecting patients, and healthcare facilities often have a patient bill of rights. An important patient right is informed consent. This means that if you need a treatment, your health care provider should give you the information you need to make a decision. Many hospitals have patient advocates who can help you if you have problems. Many states have an ombudsman office for problems with long term care. Your state's department of health may also be able to help.