Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ye Olde People

In improvisation and in writing, it's usually wisest to craft characters close to your age so that they operate from a field of experience similar to yours. This tends to lend itself to more believable characters and situations. Unfortunately, the world just ain't made up that way. We weren't all born at the same time and we're all on a different path with a different time schedule.

When it comes to portraying senior citizens, I often see people quickly embrace stereotypes. The character is hunched over, has a cane, is hard of hearing, can't remember names or much of anything else, and is likely senile. Worst of all, they use words like "whipper-snapper." I have never, EVER, heard anyone of any age, let alone someone over 70, use the term "whipper-snapper." When it comes to older people, we tend to imitate what we have seen imitated rather than flesh out the character. Even if that flesh is a little loose and dry.

I have what may be sobering news for some. The elderly are human beings, too. They have the basic human wants and desires to be seen, heard, touched and loved. Sure, they might be a bit crotchety. Their body's like a car that keeps breaking down and simply walking down a short set of stairs can be a life or death situation. They are in their autumn years and perhaps struggling with being relevant in today's world. They may be very disappointed in how things have turned out for themselves. They may also be very happy and very appreciative or where they are and who they are with.

My father is celebrating his 75th birthday this weekend. He sounds okay upstairs, but his health is failing. He has poor circulation in his legs and has had problems with his heart. My mother is almost 70 and has Alzheimer's. Her life is a near constant state of walking into a room and forgetting what you went in there for. She knows who she is, she knows who her family is, and she knows she has Alzheimer's. But once those bolts are gone, she's gone. Still, for now, they are both very capable of having a normal conversation.

So, when dealing with creating a senior citizen character, put yourself in their skid-free slippers. There are some who have canes and walkers and some that don't. There are some that are hard of hearing and some that aren't. They deal with their pain and, for the most part, are just trying to reach the exit of their life with as much dignity as possible. How will you behave at that age? What will you want from your family and your friends?


Yesterday, I asked...

"13-year-old Megan Coulter was recently given two detentions at her school for doing what?"

13% "Writing a poem about beheadings"
- Only if those heads came off because she squeezed to hard.

No one went for "Bringing a kitchen knife to Home Ec" or "Stalking her teacher," probably with said knife.

87% got the right answer with "Hugging her friends"

According to The Associated Press, Melissa and Dean Coulter met with officials of the Mascoutah School District 19 to discuss the two detentions given their daughter, Megan, for hugging friends goodbye for the weekend. School officials said the eighth grader violated a policy banning public displays of affection. C'mon, America! The school is dead on right. The last thing this country needs are little pervy punks learning about affection in school!

Support the troops.