Movie 'Up' takes new look at aging

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Finally, there is a movie that provides a positive depiction of seniors and old age. That film is “Up,” and I suggest you head out to the nearest theatre to see it, if you haven’t already.

Unlike most movies and advertising, it rejects the common perceptions of what it means to grow old—depressing, difficult and ugly. Instead, we see how great it can be!

The animated film, which was produced by Pixar, stars an elderly man named Carl Fredricksen (played by Ed Asner). In the beginning, he is that stereotypical, grumpy curmudgeon we see frequently in pictures. He still grieves for his deceased wife, Ellie, stays in his home, uses a cane and doesn’t appreciate people knocking on his door, least of all an 8-year-old pesty Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell.

But unlike other movies he’s not just a source of comic relief. We understand him and why he is the way he is. We come to know his beautiful wife whom he met as a child, and their life together. We relate to Carl because we knew what he was like when he was young.

The best part about this story is that Carl gets a second chance at life. His real-life adventure actually begins when he is forced to move to Shady Oaks, a retirement community (OK, the film is not exactly a ringing endorsement of long-term care). From there, he takes off (literally, into the sky with his house) and pursues his and Ellie’s childhood dream of living in South America.

Soon, we see a Carl we haven’t seen before. He is clearly made for adventure and proves adept at handling the wilderness—initially even more so than his 8-year-old companion. When he stops using his cane and starts running, we know he has recaptured a feeling of joy and youth he hasn’t felt in a long time.

Most people who work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities know someone like Carl. Most of the time, as the movie shows, behind a gruff, short-tempered or sad exterior, lies an explorer waiting to be discovered.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.