Back in 2002, when AARP presented its first Movies for Grownups Awards, the movie industry virtually ignored the interests of people 50 and older. Those stories simply were not being told.
Many of our greatest actors and actresses were seen less and less on the big screen. Roles for them were few and far between. When we did see people 50 and older in movies, they were more often than not fringe characters portrayed as weak, frail, sick, senile, cranky or unattractive.
So we set out to change that mind-set by recognizing films that spoke to grownup audiences on topics that matter to them. We honor the actors, actresses and filmmakers who defy the conventional mind-set, make memorable movies and inspire us by their work both on screen and off.
AARP’s Movies for Grownups has helped create a climate that encourages the entertainment industry to make more movies that resonate with a grownup audience. Such movies are no longer outliers. With hit box-office comedies like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 50+ love stories like Enough Said and even action movies like Deepwater Horizon that feature veteran stars, grownup movies have become mainstream.
Films like these disrupt aging. They help change the conversation about what it means to grow older. Today, people over 50 are no longer merely peripheral characters in movies. They play central, vital roles — just like people over 50 in real life. I like to think that our Movies for Grownups Awards helped to bring about this change.
Studios also seem to be awakening to the numbers that show grownup audiences are among the most reliable theatrical moviegoers, and are responding to that. They recognize the power of intergenerational storytelling.
The actors, actresses, filmmakers and storytellers AARP honors with Movies for Grownups do so much more than make entertaining and thought-provoking movies. They are also changing prejudiced and negative assumptions about older people through the stories they tell, the characters they create and the relationships they nurture.
They also inspire us to look at life and aging differently — and to reach for the real possibilities in our own lives. Morgan Freeman — this year’s Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Award honoree — personifies this powerful dynamic through his continued accomplishments in acting, producing and directing.
Such individuals change the culture. They show us how to look at life differently. They take the possibilities that we have only dreamed about and make them real.
They are living proof that aging can be a time of continued growth and creativity, not a period of decline, as we have been led to believe throughout our lives. We don’t just “get older,” we “grow older,” and in doing so we become the person we always wanted to be.
At AARP, we’re on a mission to disrupt aging — to change the conversation in this country about what it means to grow older.
When we disrupt aging and embrace it as a part of life to look forward to, we help people grab their opportunities and confront their challenges. And in the process, they can begin to discover the real possibilities of living the life they have always wanted.
That optimism — that desire to live life on our own terms and to make a difference in the world — is very real, and it is reflected in Movies for Grownups.
I can’t think of a better way to disrupt aging than by honoring the actors, actresses, filmmakers and storytellers who make Movies for Grownups.