The Netflix original series “Grace and Frankie” came back with a vengeance for its third season. The story of two 70-something women who become unlikely friends after their husbands announce they are in love totally nails the aging experience in Season 3.
Here’s what it gets pitch-perfect. Of course, beware of spoilers.
1. Banks don’t take older women seriously.
Grace (Jane Fonda) has a solid track record of launching and managing a successful business, but to the baby-faced banker named Derrick who she and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) approach for a 10-year, $75,000 business loan, she is unworthy.
Actually, it was probably a combination of their gender, their ages, and the fact that the product they want to sell is a lightweight vibrator for women who have arthritic hands. The very idea of older people having sex has been known to gross out some younger people. Note that Derrick closes his office door at the first mention of the vibrator.
As for age and sex discrimination, banks are regulated by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which prohibits discrimination on many fronts, including age and sex. But this is one of those cases where there is the law, and then there is the reality. The law does not require banks to make bad loans.
Banks live in fear of the four D’s: death, disability, divorce and drugs. That’s because the four D’s can lead to a fifth D: default. While things can happen to all borrowers, death and disability happen to older borrowers more often.
Plus, older business borrowers aren’t great guarantors ― especially if, like Grace, they’ve been successful and are smart. Successful, smart people generally know to tie up their assets in retirement plans or trusts, which creditors can’t touch. If the borrowers die or are disabled, the bank is left dealing with heirs, who know nothing about the borrowers’ business.
So it was no surprise that the banker Derrick blanched at the idea of making a 10-year loan to Grace and Frankie, who are both north of 70. Derrick was probably wondering whether they would survive long enough to repay the loan. Even the well-regarded Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Entrepreneurial Activity ― the bible for tracking trends in entrepreneurship ― stops counting at age 64.
Maybe the Small Business Administration needs to realize that people are living longer and healthier, and sometimes our second chapters could use some underwriting ― even when we start them a bit later.
2. Dealing with the death of a parent is hard, especially one we didn’t much like.
Sometimes, we don’t succeed in resolving our issues with our parents before death slams shut the window of opportunity. Martin Sheen’s character, Robert, visits his elderly and very disagreeable mother to tell her that he has married Sol, the man she previously referred to as “the loud, tall Jew at the law firm.”
From her wheelchair in a well-appointed nursing home, she reacts with predictable disapproval, leaving Robert visibly crushed. The scene scores an additional point for realistic aging: Some of us never stop seeking parental approval, regardless of our age.
Without anything resembling kindness, the “Irish Voldemort” ― as Robert’s spouse Sol calls the tyrant mother ― attacks her son as a “selfish man.”
“I could have happily died never knowing that you were one of them,” she adds.
Caregiving is a tough and unreasonable job if there ever was one. And it frequently involves caring for a disagreeable parent ― even a parent who has harmed us and with whom we have a strained relationship. And then they die, leaving us wondering what else we could have done.
3. We are scared of the R-word.
Retirement is a mixed bag of worries. Can we afford it? What will we do all day? Will we be bored?
Robert has retired and wants Sol to, as well. Sol insists he must still go into the office at least three days a week to “help Bud” run the law firm. It isn’t until Sol attempts to fire his quirky longtime secretary, Joan-Margaret, that he realizes it’s time for him to hang up his law shingle as well ― not because he’s ready to retire, but because Bud and the law firm need him to.
Most experts believe that solid retirement planning includes knowing how you will fill your days. The Institute of Economic Affairs, a London-based think tank, says that following an initial boost in health, retirement increases your risk of clinical depression by 40 percent, while raising your chance of being diagnosed with a physical condition by 60 percent. Lisa Berkman, a Harvard professor of public policy, cites social isolation as a significant factor in longevity. If you’re socially isolated, you may experience poorer health and a shorter lifespan.
4. We don’t want to be a burden to our children.
Grace’s daughter, Brianna, in cahoots with Frankie, loans the business the money it needs. But she loses her status as secret benefactor a few episodes later, and Grace is enraged. “I don’t want my children’s help,” she says.
Not wanting your children’s help is a precursor to not wanting to be a burden. Same idea, and it’s real. Taking help from those who you are used to taking care of feels demeaning. If the parent-child roles haven’t legitimately reversed yet, don’t be like Brianna.
5. Just because we are older doesn’t mean we are old.
After both women throw out their backs and can’t get off the floor, Bud gifts them high-tech wearable alert buttons that hang on a chain around the neck. Grace removes one of her high heels to smash the device. Frankie, who has an outlandish outfit that she says it will go with, wears hers to a business meeting, where she inadvertently activates it and alerts an ambulance to rescue her.
It’s a funny schtick, and both actresses pull off the comedy magnificently. But it also rings true when it comes to how adult children see older people. Can we please hold off on the Granny-cam?
6. All marketing is geared toward youth and sex.
Vybrant’s proposed new business partner hopes to woo Grace and Frankie with a peek at a proposed ad campaign. It features photos of the two of them ― but when they were 20 years younger. Yes, even a product designed for older women is afraid to show them.
Grace and Frankie hold their ground.
About 10,000 people a day turn 65. And pretty soon, there will be more older people than younger ones. More to the point: Boomers have more disposable income than any other generation, but they still can’t even find a box of hair coloring where the model even remotely looks like them.
According to a Nielsen study, by the end of 2017, boomers will control 70 percent of the country’s disposable income. Nearly 60 percent of homeowners over 65 are not weighed down by mortgages, compared with just 11 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds. And boomers account for 80 percent of America’s luxury travel spending, says AARP.
7. Yeah, some of us do still actually chase our dreams ― and occasionally catch them.
Frankie’s art show opening may not have been a rousing financial success, but she rightfully deserves the victory lap she takes for having done it. And kudos to her for giving away the yellow painting that represented Sol’s dislike for mustard. Let bygones be bygones.
Chasing your dreams is something you hear a lot about when you reach the end of your working years. Second chapters, next acts ― whatever you want to call it ― it means following your passions and making the time to do whatever it is you want to do, which for us is finishing watching Season 3.