Why are aged care homes showing children’s movies to residents?


Whether it’s 50 Shades of Grey, Mary Poppins or Top Gun, residents should have a say in the movies being shown in their homes, and they should be able to make their own choices, says a highly experienced dementia and wellbeing consultant. 

Yet, it has come to HelloCare’s attention that some aged care homes are only showing children’s movies to residents, regardless of the viewers’ interests, histories, cultural backgrounds or preferences.

Disney favourites such as Frozen are routinely played, seemingly with little regard for what the audience wants. 

Films with a rating higher than a PG are rarely, if ever, considered suitable.

These limitations were raised in a post on our Aged Care Workers Support Group, on Facebook, sparking lively debate.

Many said making aged care residents watch children’s movies was disrespectful and an affront to their dignity. 

Some revealed management, families, and even doctors are dictating residents’ viewing patterns, with little regard for what the residents are interested in.

Thankfully, most who commented on the post said residents are given a say in the movies they watch in their homes, and a range of quality content is available. 

Give residents a say

Colin McDonnell, dementia and wellbeing consultant at Calvary Care, spoke to HelloCare about this topic, and said residents must have a say in what movies are shown, and that begins with staff understanding each resident’s preferences and their life history.

Staff need to learn what is “meaningful” to each individual resident, he said.

“Some might like thrillers, some might like dramas,” he said. Animal movies, science fiction, or tales of adventure – residents will have a wide range of viewing preferences.

“Some might like Greek movies, some might like Italian movies, so it can be cultural too.”

“If they’ve lived on a farm, it’ll be movies about farms.”

And some people won’t want to go to the movies at all, they might want to watch videos in their room, or just watch the news, McDonnell said.

“It depends what they’ve done and what they like, so you have to find that out first. You can’t make bulk decisions for people… It goes back to choice and decision making.”

Know the person’s history

Over the years, McDonnell has seen many favourites, but the two films that stand out to him are the classics Gone with the Wind and The Sound of Music. 

Films residents saw when they were in their 30s and 40s are often popular, too. 

Chicago, The Crown series on Netflix, and films starring legends such as Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland and Shirley Temple, are also much loved.

Many residents love to sing along when they watch movies, McDonnell noted.

Through his own personal experience, McDonnell has seen how films can comfort and entertain residents when they are selected with the person’s life history and interests in mind.

“When my father in law was in (an aged care home) with frontal lobe dementia, we brought him the movies he liked. He liked The Black Stallion, and he kept wanting to watch The Black Stallion,” McDonnell said. 

Dim the lights, grab the popcorn

McDonnell said in some homes, special movie nights are a regular and popular event. 

It’s appropriate to hold these sessions in the evening, he said, because this is the time most people go to the cinema.

For these events, aged care staff can survey residents about what films they like, and play the most popular movies over a series of nights. 

“You can make the whole thing a big event,” says McDonnell.

Never assume: Pink Floyd a resident favourite

McDonnell said choosing movies is much like determining what music you will play. 

“It’s no good putting on country music if they don’t like it, because they’ll turn it off.” The same goes for movies.

McDonnell’s own investigations in one aged care home revealed many residents loved Pink Floyd. 

“You have to remember Mick Jagger’s neary 80, Paul McCartney’s nearly 80, and Ringo Starr is 80,” McDonnell said.

A perennial favourite in nursing homes, both the music and his films, is Andre Rieu. But McDonnell does not approve. “I don’t like having Andre Rieu on all the time,” he said. “It’s really good sleeping music, but it makes everyone very apathetic and depressed, basically,” he said.

See the world virtually

Residents can also access a vast wealth of other entertainment online if they prefer, and these options can be offered as an alternative or as well as watching movies. 

Google Earth allows you to ‘travel’, virtually, all over the world. Residents can take a ‘trip’ to the Great Barrier Reef, for example.

Or some museums and galleries, such as the Louvre, allow online tours, which might appeal to art-loving residents or history buffs. 

“There are many, many things they can do,” McDonnell suggested.

Residents don’t hold the controls

“Have you ever sat through a bad movie?” McDonnell asked me as we chatted. “You either get up and go, or you change the bloody channel,” he said. 

“Residents have got the right to do that, but they haven’t got the controls, so it’s got to come back to asking them what they want to watch.”

As a long-time movie fan myself, this discussion has made me think about a time when I might live in an aged care home myself. I would definitely want to be consulted about what was showing.

So, choose a suitable room, ensure there is comfortable seating. Bring out the popcorn and maybe even choc tops, dim the lights… and let the magic begin.

Images: Flair Images, iStock.

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  1. I love Andre Rieu and I find him uplifting, and so do many young people too.so don’t pick on him! But Andre aside, most places offer popular movies and the residents can choose to attend or not. I love sci fi and a good serial killer movie, but hate westerns, so a good mix is the way to go for all tastes. And for the record, I love Frozen as well! .

  2. I do agree, I am often frustrated because a resident likes a movie mainly in the memory loss unit it is played continually. Movies and music are good but as the saying is little goes a long way.

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