Movies Not Just For Kids: AARP Picks Its 2013 Faves

Published in the Pawtucket Times, December 27, 2013

May be a little less visible than the Golden Globes or even the Academy Awards, the Washington, D.C.-based AARP, the nation’s largest aging advocacy group joins the two groups, recognizing outstanding writing, acting and film making but also looking at distinct relevance to the age 50 and older audience.

Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and Nebraska are among this year’s Top 10 Movies for Grownups, according to AARP The Magazine. According to the publication’s editors the top 10 list features “thoughtful films with timeless entertainment value and a particular appeal for grownup audiences.” The films are selected by the editors of AARP The Magazine, probably one of the most recognized publications geared to 50 and older Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with more than 35 million readers (sent to AARP members as a membership benefit).

Great Films for Older Audiences

As award season nears, the Golden Globe awards will be announced on January 26, 2014, followed by the Academy Awards on March 2, 2014, AARP The Magazine releases its listing of best films of the year that resonate with a 50 plus audience,” said Bob Love, Editor-in-Chief of AARP The Magazine. “We’ve seen a shift this year in that some of the most successful films at the box office were stories appealing to this mature crowd. There’s been a resurgence of interest in older actors in standout roles and 50+ directors behind the camera—and we are thrilled to see the change!”

Recognizing filmmakers age 50 plus who continue to do innovative risk-taking work, actors and actresses age 50 and over offering increasingly compelling performances, and big-screen explorations of topics that resonate specifically with baby boomers and seniors, AARP The Magazine’s editors selected the following Top 10 Movies for Grownups in 2013 (details from Wikipedia):

12 Years a Slave is a 2013 historical drama and adaptation of the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free negro who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the Louisiana for twelve years before his release. The $20 million budgeted film directed by Steve McQueen with the script written by John Ridley, was filmed in New Orleans. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Northup and has been widely praised for his work in this 134 minute feature film. More info:

All Is Lost is a 2013 American survival film written and directed by J.C. Chandor. The 8.5 million budget film stars Robert Redford as a man lost at sea. Redford is the only cast member, and the film has almost no dialogue. According to BBC News, the 100 minute film screened out of competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, noting that having the screening the film received a standing ovation. More info:

Captain Phillips is a 2013 American action thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. The 133 minute film tells how merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips was taken n hostage by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean during the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009 led by Abduwali Muse. The screenplay by Billy Ray is based upon the book, A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea. More info:

Dallas Buyers Club is a 2013 American biographical drama directed by Jean-Marc Vallėe and starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner and Steve Zahn. The 116 minute film is based on the true-life tale of Ron Woodroof, who was the subject of a lengthy 1992 article in The Dallas Morning News written by journalist and author Bill Minutaglio. The film, costing $5.5 million to make, follows the Woodroof, who was diagnosed with AIDS given only 30 days to live. The only drug available brought him close to death, forcing him to smuggle anti-viral medications from all over the world (unapproved by FDA and unavailable in the U.S) to survive. He forms a buyers club, providing paying members with these unsanctioned alternative treatments, resulting in the FDA and pharmaceutical companies seeking to end his illegal activities. More info:

Enough Said is a 2013 American romantic comedy directed and written by Nicole Holofcener. The film stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the James Gandolfini (in one of his final roles), Toni Collette, Catherine Keener, Ben Falcone, and Toby Huss. The 93 minute film’s plot center on a woman who befriends a woman and starts dating a man at the same time, only to find out that her two new acquaintances are former spouses. This leaves her in a dilemma about whether she should risk her new friendship and romantic partner if she reveals what she has learned about them from one another. More info:

Gravity is a science fiction thriller directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Curón… The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts involved in the mid-orbit destruction of a space shuttle and their attempt to return to Earth. More info:

Nebraska is a 2013 American comedy film starring Bruce Dern (father) and Will Forte (son). The 110 minute film (shot in black and white), directed by Alexander Payne, begins with Dern receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, who now thinks he is rich. He gets Forte to take a road trip, from Montana to Nebraska, to claim his prize. Along the way the two meet up with friends, relatives and acquaintances to whom the Dern ostensibly owes money. The $12 million budgeted film, shot in four states, tells the stories of family life in middle America. More info:

Philomena is a 2013 British comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears. The 95 minute film is based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith, which tells the true story of a birth mother, Philomena Lee’s 50-year-long search for her son, Michael, who she gave up for adoption. The book focuses more, as the title suggests, on the life her son had after his adoption. More info:

Saving Mr. Banks is a 2013 historical comedy-dram film directed by John Lee Handcock from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Centered on the development of the 1964 Walt Disney Studios film Mary Poppins, the film stars Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as filmmaker Walt Disney, with supporting roles from Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Ruth Wilson, and Colin Farrell. Taking its title from the father in Travers’ story, the film depicts the author’s fortnight- long briefing in 1961 Los Angeles as she is persuaded by Disney, in his attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novels. Produced by Walt Disney Pictures and BBC Films, the 125 minute film was shot entirely in the Southern California area, primarily at the Walt Disney Studios. More info:

The Butler is a 2013 American historical fiction drama film directed by Lee Daniels and written by Danny Strong. The 132 minute film is loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen, the film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, an African-American who eyewitnesses notable events of the 20th century during his 34-year tenure serving as a White House butler. More info:

AARP Award Winners Announced in January

This year’s Top 10 Movies for Grownups offers a preview of AARP’s upcoming annual Movies for Grownups Awards, recognized as a bellwether for the Academy Awards, with standard categories including Best Actor, Actress and Director, in addition to a few unique offerings like “Best Grownup Love Story,” “Best Buddy Picture,” and “Best Time Capsule Movie.” The winners in all categories will be announced in early January, and will be featured online at The entire list of award winners will also be featured in the February/March issue of AARP The Magazine, available February 1st.

Turning Off Older Moviegoers

Over the years, movie studios have turned their back on the nation’s aging baby boomers and seniors, targeting teenagers and young adults, In these films the plot is passed on the special interests of these younger demographic groups, such as coming of age, first love, rebellion, and conflict with parents, teen angst, and alienation. For decades, the cinema industry has chased after teens that are viewed to have more disposable income that is more money to spend on going to films.

AARP sends a powerful message to Hollywood studio executives that older moviegoers have different interests than their younger cohorts. They may well want to spend their discretionary income as the editors of AARP The Magazine note on “thoughtful films with timeless entertainment value.” If ignored, grownups may well spend their discretionary dollars on other leisure activities.

Movies for Grownups®, which now includes weekly reviews and an award-winning radio program, an annual film festival, and year-round coverage in AARP The Magazine and online, was started in 2002 by the editors of AARP The Magazine. Additional information can be found online at

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at

Internet Sex Survey Sheds Light on What’s “Normal” in Relationships

Published in Pawtucket Times, February 8, 2013

Just after the little blue tablet, Viagra, endorsed on television commercials by a former Senate majority leader and former presidential contender Bob Dole in the late 1990s, the prescription wonder drug for those with erectile dysfunction in later life literally became the talk of the town.

We began to talk a little bit more openly about our sexuality, joking about the miraculous powers of the Viagra, including Cialis and Levitra, probably with the intent to relieve our own personal discomfort of the taboo topic of sex.

But even today, this columnist still hears snickers from those who believe that older persons are asexual, and that sex is of no interest to them in their twilight years. It’s a myth, experts say, their observations supported by a recently published book and a decade worth of AARP studies on sexual attitude and practices.

Creating a New Normal for Your Relationship

Based on data obtained on the internet from nearly 70,000 respondents from the United States and around the world (with significant numbers of returns coming from China, Spain, Italy, France, England, Australia, Philippines, Hungary, Brazil, and Canada), last Wednesday Random House released, The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating a New Normal in Your Relationship.

Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D, Love and Relationship Ambassador for AARP, a Sociologist who teaches at University of Washington, and her coauthors, wellness entrepreneur Chrisanna Northrup and Dr. James Witte, Ph.D., a Sociologist who serves as Director of the Center for Social Science Research at George Mason University, teamed up to design a very unique interactive internet survey that would draw relationship data from around the world.

The researchers partnered with AARP, American on Line, the Huffington Post and Reader’s Digest, who encouraged tens of thousands to take the project’s innovative internet survey.

Dr. Schwartz and her co-researchers, took a look at what constitutes “normal” behavior among happy couples and outlined what steps you should take if that “normal” is one you want to strive for. They believe that their study gives the “clearest picture yet of how well couples are communicating, romancing each other, satisfying each other in the bedroom, sharing financial responsibilities, and staying faithful.”

Since the Normal Bar survey methodology sorts for age and gender, racial and geographic differences and sexual preferences, the authors were able to reveal, for example, what happens to passion as we grow older, which gender wants what when it comes to sex, the factors that spur marital combat, how kids figure in, how being gay or bisexual turns out to be both different and the same, and –regardless of background — the tiny habits that drive partners absolutely batty.

The book provides revelations to the reader, from the unexpected popularity of certain sexual positions, to the average number of times happy – and unhappy — couples kiss, to the prevalence of lying, to the surprising loyalty most men and women feel for their partner (even when in a deteriorating relationship), to the vivid and idiosyncratic ways individuals of different ages, genders and nationalities describe their “ideal romantic evening.”

Much more than a peek behind the relationship curtain, The Normal Bar offers readers an array of prescriptive tools that will help them establish a “new normal” in their relationships. Mindful of what keeps couples stuck in ruts, the book’s authors suggest practical and life-changing ways for couples to break cycles of disappointment and frustration.

AARP Article Zeros in On Older Couples

The Normal bar survey findings in this recently released book, drawn from responses of 8,000 survey respondents who are over age 50, were published in the February/March issue of AARP The Magazine in an article, penned by Northrup, Drs. Schwartz and Witte, entitled Sex at 50+: What’s Normal? Among the findings reported in this AARP article:

Thirty two percent of men and 48% of woman do not hug their partner in public. The researchers believe that public displays of affection (PDA) positive impact relationships. Sixty eight percent now showing PDA are unhappy or slightly happy with their partner. A whopping 73% of the happiest couples can’t keep their hands off each other in public and do so at least once a month.

Meanwhile, 78% of the couples admit they hold hands at least some of the time. However it seems to be the younger pairs, because among all the couples who have been together for over 10 years, more than half say they no longer hold hands.

“I love you,” just three little words said often may just spice up your relationship. The researchers found that among the happiest couples, 85% of both men and woman said those words at least once a week. It’s a male thing – more than 90% of men tell their partner “I love you” regularly while only 58% of the woman do so.

The researchers found that 74% of the happiest couples will give their partner a passionate smooch. Thirty-eight percent of all age 50 plus couples do not passionately kiss. Kissing can be the connector between each partner, note the researchers.

Thirty-one percent of the aging baby boomer couples have sex several times a week while only 28% have sex a couple of times a month. Around 8% have sex just one time a month.

Forty-seven percent of woman praise their partner’s appearance regularly in comparison to 55% of men. The study’s findings reveal that praise is important for a couple’s happiness.

Thirty-two percent of the couples give a thumbs down to date nights. Eighty-eight percent of the happiest couples spend time alone together. The researchers recommend that you go out twice a month to “maintain the sense of closeness.”

Thirty-three percent of the respondents report they rarely or never have sex. However, even among the happiest couples, a whopping one-fourth don’t do it.

Dr. Schwartz believes that the most important observation made from the study is that sexuality is important throughout one’s lifespan. “People have to take care of their relationship and not put it on automatic pilot,” she says.

Bringing Sexuality Out of the Closet

With the graying of America’s population, it is now time to bring senior sexuality out of the closet. We must accept the fact that sexuality continues throughout the human life-span, and encompasses more than just intimate sexual intercourse. It also includes cuddling, a tender kiss, a light touch on the shoulder, or holding hands, as noted in The Normal Bar.

A well-known song, “As Time Goes By,” reminds us sexuality is to be experienced by both young and old. “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”

For more info about The Normal Bar, to take the Normal Bar survey or to purchase the book, go to

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at