From millennials creating virtual movie clubs with seniors, to residences starting their own cinema-inspired theme days: a little distraction from the constant headlines can go a long way right now.
If the boost you feel after enjoying a fan favourite flick isn’t proof enough, check out the science. Pilot projects show that for older people – including those with memory impairment – watching clips and scenes from movies stimulated memory and wellbeing while reducing anxiety and improving mood. Those are powerful forces in a world where bad news cycles continue to lead the day. Even better: it’s something you can tee up whether you’re in the same room as a loved one, or dialing in from afar.
How can you set up a real movie night that feels different from endless solo channel surfing? Setting the stage is key to capitalizing on the uptick that a movie can provide. Maybe that means dropping off supplies, or encouraging someone to make themselves comfortable over the phone. Either way, really investing in making the movie an event in and of itself is important. Suggest cozy blankets, comfy seating or even black-out blinds to ensure a senior has clear visibility of the screen regardless of the time of day. Some seniors’ homes have gone so far as to sport vintage usher uniforms and issue their residents tickets. Don’t worry; you don’t need to go that far to create a warm and relaxing atmosphere. But, do invest in the little details that transform a living room into an experience with a bit of gravitas, even if you’re watching in tandem from your own home.
Like any activity you suggest to engage a senior and provide a mini escape, make sure the film you choose ties to your loved one’s actual interests. Netflix and Amazon Prime have a host of classics from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and beyond if you search by year. Disney+ even groups their offerings by decade, offering up the chance to revisit the first cartoon someone saw, or the first film they took the kids to. In Canada, the Cineplex app gives you the chance to search for long-forgotten titles you can rent and watch at home. If your DVD collection has been collecting dust the last few years, cull the content for something that might work. Classic westerns, old-school love stories, family comedies that once ran on repeat in a senior’s home: pick the movie in advance. Scrolling through options in real time makes the event feel more humdrum than special. Be sure to iron out the technology in advance to make this as frustration-free an activity as possible.
Delivering or bringing snacks takes things from good to great. Ice cream, popcorn and anything in between adds to the vibe you’re creating, and the mood you’re cultivating. Treats reinforce that this isn’t just everyday tv watching. It’s something more.
Above all, come ready to talk. That might seem counterintuitive. Still, nostalgic movies from the past have shown to be a powerful catalyst for conversations with seniors. Pausing – or even having a formal intermission – to talk amplifies the benefits of a movie night in. Be deliberate in your talk track. Stay away from yes or no answers, favouring questions like: “Which actress was your favourite back in the day?” or “What was your favourite kind of movie to go and see?” Those seemingly small queries can transform a simple viewing experience into an opportunity to connect, stimulate memories and give you a sense of how someone’s doing.
Seniors need purpose in their days. Getting creative about a movie night is an easy way to engage someone in a broader dialogue, help them find their laugh and connect. The best part? If you’ve been asking yourself “How can I avoid caregiver burnout?”, then a movie night in is a great way to carve out a break for yourself, too. Knowing someone you love is getting an experience that alleviates their stress can help dial back some of your own.