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Silver Actors on the Silver Screen

02/23/2015 03:36 pm ET | Updated Apr 25, 2015
Gregg DeGuire via Getty Images

When you're watching the 2015 Academy Awards, it's worth keeping in mind that the annual AARP Life@50+ mega-bash isn't until May. It would be easy to get confused. With Clint Eastwood (age 84), Michael Keaton (63), J.K. Simmons (60), Julianne Moore (54), Meryl Streep (65), and Robert Duvall (84) all nominated for the top hardware, the Oscars are no longer the preserve for the baby-faced A-listers.

But perhaps what's most remarkable about the coup staged by these "retirement age" actors and directors is that its not news. The content-starved 24-hour media machine is making no mention of the aging of Hollywood -- and not once is it declared (much less bemoaned!) that the senior citizens are hogging the limelight.

And as the Eastwoods and Streeps of LaLa Land continue year after year to make the best films, we are witnessing a new genre of films emerge -- films that explore and illustrate 21st century longevity. Indeed, as Hollywood's best grow older, and as audiences across the world age right along with them, why not this new genre? Why wouldn't Hollywood -- and Bollywood -- recognize the market opportunity? With a billion people globally over 60, there's only so much appetite for another heartthrob romance or toilet-humor gag-fest.

The best art, it's been said since the days of Ancient Greece, is that which holds a mirror to our lives. So if we as a society are aging, so too should the talkies. And here Hollywood teaches us one of the most critical lessons about turning global population aging into a sustainable source of economic growth for the 21st century.

The more movies that Eastwood and Oprah produce, the more roles that Moore and Streep perform -- the more movies will be made. These "seniors" aren't taking roles from their younger counterparts. They're building out Hollywood, turning it into a broader and more robust industry. The younger starlets should be shining Duvall's shoes, begging him to keep at it.

The same holds true in finance and retail, manufacturing and healthcare. No matter the industry, growth and development are rooted in an organizations ability to keep older adults contributing in the workplace. Older workers aren't "taking jobs" from their younger colleagues; they're adding to the equation, growing the economy and making more opportunities for everyone.

It's not often Hollywood teaches us about macro-economics, but when it speaks, we would be wise to listen.

And keep our ears open we should. Because not only is this new genre of movie illustrating 21st century models for economic growth, it's celebrating 21st century longevity.

Take the sequel to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. This is perhaps one of the least likely sequels in the history of moviemaking (save, perhaps, Speed 2). The film examines how a bunch of British pensioners head off to India to live the last of their few days on the last of their few pounds. And then a sequel? But, again, why not?

We're living longer than ever before, and the very nature of a sequel about a group of seniors captures exactly what we are confronting today: lives are stretching by routine into the 80s and 90s, and we've got to plan for these extra decades of life. If Best Exotic Marigold Hotel were to accurately chronicle the journey of today's retirees, we'd need a trilogy.

Or take Red -- the admittedly silly marvel comedic-cum-adventure series in which an old Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman team up to fight the bad guys. These movies play off the tropes of the platitudinous action flicks, but they do it with a cast that would be, if they worked many employers, forced into retirement. But Willis and Freeman show that aging today isn't just about longer lives -- it's about healthier and more capable "old age." Though they mock their aging bodies, they show that they've still got it.

Red is a tongue-in-check affair, to be sure, but the point is that the jokes in Red don't work if they don't reflect reality. A few decades ago, the movie's satirical oomph would have been impossible. There would have been no jokes to make about older people doing young things. Comedy demands a foundation of truth, and Red is nothing if not satirical.

Hollywood has shown both courage and market savvy in stocking films with older talent. Now it's time to show that this strategy isn't gesture -- but the making of a new genre that is bound to thrive as the global population ages.