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Dementia and Disney

Dementia and Disney

by LAURA BOOI
Contributor

I was surfing Netflix and came across the children’s movie Ice Age: Continental Drift.

Watching computer-animated family comedies isn’t what I do every Saturday night but I do enjoy a good laugh, and my heavens these Ice Age films are funny.

Anyway, I was stoked to see that one of the main characters in the film is Sid’s elderly grandmother. Right on. Finally, some positive older adults thrown in as main characters in children’s films. (Up by Pixar is another good one.)

The character of Granny is awesome. Granny, a sloth, is probably in her late 80s in human years. Who knows what that is in sloth years?

Granny talks smack, bosses the others around and is confident as hell.

Widower Carl, in Pixar's Up, is one of the few feisty senior characters in kids' films. Up 2 is coming in 2015. Widower Carl, in Pixar’s Up, is a rare feisty senior character in kids’ films. Up 2 is coming in 2015.
Photographer: Neftali / Shutterstock.com

The only problem with Granny is that she is showing signs of moderate to severe dementia. She never knows where she is, wanders, smokes her head on things, forgets who the other characters are and continually walks into harm’s way.

At first I was bummed to see yet another example of dementia in children’s movies instead of a cognitively healthy older adults. But I have been thinking about this demented old sloth, and I am happy that 20th Century Fox created a character that is so booming with life and energy, yet she is an older adult who also lives with dementia.

Granny’s cognitive difficulties are a lot of the comedic relief in the film. It makes me wonder: Would we put a character in a child’s movie, say a child with autism, and let that character’s actions be the brunt of the joke?

The movie was seriously funny and all the humor was lighthearted and silly. So my conclusion is that I am happy that dementia is in this family film yet, if Fox would have only consulted me (seriously guys…), I would have suggested that they throw in an older, non-demented lead character with all the spit and venom of Granny but with the ability to also participate in the story, other than as a clown.

People with dementia are not clowns to be laughed at, although they do do some hilarious stuff sometimes – so do we all. I like to draw the autism parallel: Would we let a child with autism be viewed as a clown in a current family film without public backlash? Probably not. So why is it okay with someone who has dementia?

Reprinted with permission.

Grandma's Box of Memories

When Grandma starts to become forgetful, Alice and her family create a box of memories. Alice puts some pretty packets of seeds in the box, to remind Grandma of their happy times watching them grow into beautiful flowers. Her brother Harry puts some toy animals in the box, to remind Grandma of their fun trips to the zoo. Written by Jean Demetris and illustrated by her son, Alex Demetris. Suitable for ages 4 to 7.

Grandpa Green

Grandpa Green’s yard is magical, but he wasn’t always a gardener: he has plenty of stories to tell about growing up as a farmboy, or the time he had chickenpox or when he went to war. His great grandson, Jack, discovers these stories as he walks through Grandpa Green’s garden, where topiary trees spark memories, and imagination helps to recreate forgotten moments. This whimsical storybook written and illustrated by Lane Smith explores memory, aging and the strength of family bonds. To read a Q&A with the author, click here.  


About the author

Laura Booi

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