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6 Things Disney Pixar’s Up Taught Us About Independent Living

Blog August 13th, 2015
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Has anyone not seen Disney Pixar’s Up? In this day and age, not seeing a Pixar movie is like not knowing who the President is, and in 2009 they surprised us all with one of their only feature films to not have anthropomorphic animals. Up featured Carl Fredricksen, a 78 year old widower who’s checking the only thing off his bucket list in remembrance of his late spouse, Ellie.

It’s a beautiful story that all people can relate to regardless of age, but there are many parallels to draw between Carl and the move to independent living in Seattle, so we wanted to show some of those hurdles as well as symbols.

1. It’s Never Too Late to Pursue Your Dream

In the film, since Carl and Ellie were children, they dreamed of traveling to Paradise Falls, a legendary oasis! Of course, various struggles and life changes got in the way of them pursuing this dream, but in the end that doesn’t stop them.

Independent living is similar despite the lurking stereotypes. Many people still think of senior living homes as places you go to die — and it’s anything but! Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re less capable.

It’s never too late to pursue your dream. If you have always wanted to hike Machu Picchu, then plan it, and do it. If you’ve always wanted to start a band, you’re surrounded by peers who probably know at least 1 instrument. If there’s a book idea you’ve been sitting on for half a century, start writing!

It’s never too late to pick up a skill or pursue a dream.

2. Being Active Furthers Your Lifespan

In the film, we see Carl hike, make leaps of faith, and climb the starboard side of a blimp. Some of those things may not be safe, but also not beyond the realm of believably.

There are plenty of seniors who are capable of challenging hikes across rocky mountains. Many independent living in Seattle (and Arizona) are next to large hiking trails. It’s not to isolate you, but encourage you to get up and get out! There’s no denying that exercise is pivotal to longevity.

Of course, there’s a nagging voice in your head that defeats you at every turn. It’s the self-preservation part of your brain that says, “Stop exercising, I feel like we’re dying,” but you’re not. Your brain likes routine; loves the familiar because it’s predictable and can therefore back off and let you go on autopilot. This is bad for your memory and makes it tough to start exercising.

Once you’re jogging, your heart is beating fast, your blood is pumping at twice what it’s used to, and you’re perspiring. Your brain wakes up and thinks, “There must be a lion chasing after us,” but there’s not. So then your brain starts telling you to stop running, you’re breaking routine, you’re killing yourself and there’s no lion present… That’s normal. Work through that so you can outrun the lion (metaphorical or otherwise).

Besides, even though your bones naturally get more porous as you age, strengthening the muscles around the bones helps to increase your recovery time. Remember that.

3. You Can Get Involved in Kids’ Lives Without Grandchildren

Much to the chagrin of many grandparents, people are having kids later in life, and grandchildren are something every parent looks forward too, i.e. all of the fun with mild responsibility.

However, in Up, despite having no children of his own, Carl still forms a fun and healthy relationship with Russell, a young boy in the Boy Scouts. Quite honestly, this can (and does) happen for any senior in an independent living home.

The fact is boy scouts partner with many retirement communities, not just to get a badge but to get our elders involved. Additionally, for elders who aren’t a fan of camping, hikes, and building cars, there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved with younger generations.

Recently, for instance, we wrote (and praised) the intergenerational learning center in Seattle, where seniors and children were able to participate in art classes, music lessons, and the like.

Just because you don’t have grandchildren, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved.

4. Life Doesn’t End with Your Spouse

Early in the movie, Ellie, who Carl has loved for 70 years, passes away. It’s a heart-wrenching scene that’s difficult to watch, especially for those who have lost a loved one. Yet, in one of the most beautiful sentiments in a motion picture, Ellie left Carl a note that reads, “Thanks for the adventure, now go have a new one!” This sentiment is genuine and sweet and something all of us can take a lesson from.

When your spouse dies, it’s world shattering, but what’s worse is many people are unable to pick themselves back up. You don’t need to spend a long time researching to find out that the likelihood for spouses to die within a year of each other is extremely high. For many it’s because they simply don’t want to go on, but what Ellie wrote is critical for everyone to bear in mind. We need to keep going, we need to honor the memory of those we lost.

For Carl, Ellie’s passing motivated him to pursue their dream. It got him out of his house to stop living in recluse, and what happens? He does have another adventure, he does find a way to honor Ellie while still being a valued figure in someone else’s life.

So whether you’re moving into a senior home alone or with a spouse, remember that your life isn’t ending, it’s the start of a new chapter.

5. Things Aren’t People

This goes hand-in-hand with the last point, but there’s no mistaking that Carl treats the house like it’s the embodiment of Ellie. Heck, when Russell is kidnapped and put in danger, Carl tries to save his house–he puts the house higher on the priority list than Russell.

One of the reasons we struggle to move is because we assign value to “things”. We don’t want to leave the house where “little Bobby” took his first steps. However, in a lot of ways, these “objects” can weigh us down–ironic in a film like Up.

We put sentimental value on possessions and our homes become shrines, historic museums of the lives we’ve lived. The beauty in Up however, and the beauty in life, is that people live on in our hearts, not in our possessions.

So even if it’s hard to leave your house behind, remember what it means is more than what it is.

6. Moving is Hard

Moving is not easy, especially when all you’re armed with is a couple thousand helium balloons and eviction notice.

Yet the movie shows what seniors know all to well, it’s not easy to move. You want to take everything with you wherever you go. For Carl though, he needs to let go of his house if he’s ever going to move on, and he does.

When Carl abandons his house, even though we want to see him rescue Russell, it is sad. It’s hard to watch the last remaining piece of Ellie vanish into the clouds, but it’s necessary. Reaching Paradise Falls was their adventure and now it’s time for Carl to start a new one.

Carl only changes and hops out of his depression once he lets his home go. It’s not easy, and we spend the majority of the moving watching him cling to it, but eventually he does. Take your time, hike along Paradise Falls if you have to, but remember that letting go doesn’t mean you’re forgetting the memories, you’re just starting a new adventure.

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