Amazon Prime jolted me recently with two stellar offerings — one series and one film — that feature aging characters who don’t fit any of the stereotypes. Both affected me profoundly, and I recommend them to you:
At 68, Mort (played masterfully by Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as a trans woman who wants to be called Maura. In this sweet, smart, and strongly acted ensemble series, we see the strengths and vulnerabilities of Mort/Maura and a family of ex-wife and three adult children — who make a ton of relationship mistakes of their own.
This 10-episode series resolves many questions and leaves enough unanswered to allow for a second season, which is in the works — hurray!
Yes, there’s lots of sex in Transparent, but (boo) only Maura’s children are having it. Maura is more interested in establishing her identity and being accepted by her family than in having sex with anyone — at least in season 1. Will this change in the second season?
Craig (James Cromwell) is watching Irene (Geneviève Bujold), his wife of 61 years, lose her memory. He loves her fiercely and wants to protect her by building a house that will be easier for her to live in.
Although Craig has been building houses his whole life, he’s no match for the bureaucracy that insists on permits and strict adherence to building codes that are irrelevant to Craig (the plans are in his head; the lumber came from a tree he felled; the knowledge came from his father and a lifetime of craftsmanship and self-sufficiency).
The love and chemistry between Craig and Irene are powerful. The tenderness in their loving looks and caresses will make you applaud or cry or both. And rather than portray this elderly couple as sexless, there’s a sexy undressing scene early in the film that includes, “This never gets old. We always did passion well.”
This film is based on real people and actual events. Don’t miss it.
What films have you watched that portrayed aging and relationships in a non-stereotypical way? I look forward to your recommendations.
Intimacy, Sexuality and Dementia
What does it mean, “We’re sexual from birth to death,” when faced with the growing specter of dementia? Will the nation acknowledge that over five million of its citizens with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have intimacy needs and rights? Will families, friends, professional caregivers, and institutions respect the sexuality needs and rights of individuals who are increasingly unable to care for themselves or respond to others in conventional ways? Will they learn how to connect by listening, touching, hugging, respecting, and loving the person who remains?
1. Dementia is part of today’s reality: if you’re lucky enough to live to be 85, there’s a 50 percent chance you will experience dementia. Now is the time to become an advocate for more research, education, care services, and progressive public policies.
2. Since currently there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, do your best to prevent or delay it by promoting brain health through regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, social connections, and brain-stimulating activities.
3. If you’re concerned about someone’s memory, get it checked — first by a primary physician, and then a psycho neurologist. Early diagnosis is key to getting support and planning for a future living with inevitable diminishments. Later, making choices becomes impossible.
4. Read books and view films to understand the experience of dementia. People diagnosed with Early Alzheimer’s have written powerful stories about their feelings and their relationships. Richard Taylor, author of “From the Inside Out” created a powerful DVD challenging the stigma. Many caregivers have revealed their struggles and survival techniques.
5. Stay connected with a person with dementia by meeting them where they are. Learn either the “Best Friends” or the “Validation Therapy” approach that dementia care programs use to help caregivers accept the person’s reality in ways that reduce anxiety and encourage communication.
6. Recognize that dementia profoundly affects partner relationships. A well spouse often experiences decreased attraction after assuming caretaking duties such as bathing and toileting. As the disease progresses, people may no longer recognize their partner or believe they’re someone else.
7. Sexual expression is especially important in a nursing home when physical contact may be a beneficial means of communication, serving to calm and reassure. Ask whether a home you are considering has a sexuality policy that documents residents’ sexual rights, adequate staff training, and abuse prevention strategies.
8. Most caregivers experience loss and grief as they interact with someone who is both there and not there. Unlike a death that is final, this loss continues, often for years, and is difficult and exhausting. You must take care of yourself, which is challenging – but essential — when you who love and care for someone with dementia.
– Peggy Brick, M.Ed., teaches “Alzheimer’s: New Perspectives” at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of Delaware, and is the founder of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University.