Are you craving the blissfulness of romance? Or the sweat-trickling laugh of comedy? Or a tear-jerker just to refresh the wounds of the past? Or maybe, you just need a catharsis—something to make you feel something. There is a wide array of movie genres that can address whatever refuge you might need.

Indeed, the art of the motion picture is extensively powerful. Art, like films, are what we stay alive for. They are therapeutical enough to do so.  More than the entertainment, its healing benefits stretch far into psychotherapy. Cinematherapy researches proved its effectiveness in various age groups. It wouldn’t be a surprise that even the best-assisted living near you hold film showings for their residents.  But one lingering question is, what could be the potential benefits of cinema therapy to older adults? What ways would it be useful?


It Triggers Emotional Processes

Everyone who’s seen “Titanic” either bawled into tears or prevented one. Tear-jerker movies like this would always, always exercise your tear ducts. The same way as Julia Robert’s romcoms pull at your heartstrings, Keanu Reeve’s action movies send your heart racing and horror movies make you shiver in fright. Point is, films can awaken a wide range of emotions.

According to the American Mental Health Foundation, many factors make film therapy an effective psychological tool. The combined impact of images, music, narrative, and overall cinematography offers profound emotional experiences.

For seniors, movies are an effective way to spark emotional responses, improve mood states, and inspire them to act on more positive thoughts. This is particularly important, for most of them may emotionally suffer from life transitions, limited mobility, and sometimes mundane living.  A funny or uplifting movie can help them release happy hormones such as endorphins. This can reduce stress, combat depression, and alleviate physical pain. If they may be aging in place or falling into isolation, seeing a feel-good film can motivate them to socialize and experience outdoors again.  


It Aids Mental Health Problems

Cinematherapy is a form of self-help that addresses medical and mental issues. It was popularized by Gary Solomon, author of “The Motion Picture Prescription” and “Reel Therapy.” He defines cinema therapy as the process of using movies made for the big screen or television for therapeutic purposes. True enough, film therapies cater to a lot of mental health issues ranging from depression, anxiety, addiction, grief, PTSD, and phobias.

Among the elderly, mental disorders are also present. According to the World Health Organization, it affects about 15% of the population over the age of sixty. Depression ranks as the most pervasive. Movies offer help in such a way that its therapeutical context can resonate deeply within its viewers. But there’s a fine line between therapeutic and triggering. A professional therapist may recommend the right film depending on a senior’s mental state. also offers a list of movies categorized under different issues.

If done within the right context, the healing intervention of films can bring catharsis amongst seniors. An emotionally-compelling film that mirrors their circumstances can effortlessly break their walls. This can help them admit feelings that they are suppressing. Such transparency is psychologically healthy. In case they might be suffering anxiety, engaging in movies can help them drift away from their anxious thoughts. If they are depressed, instead of succumbing to sadness, films can help them form new ways of handling their emotions. Overall, films can promote healing and growth and can drive seniors to pursue life better.


It Brings Mental Health Awareness

Mental disorders are often seen as a taboo and were never really a central subject in cinema until modern films like “Girl, Interrupted” and “Joker” emerged. These films’ explicit representation and de-stigmatizing of mental disorders serve importance to people of all ages—even to seniors.

The CDC reports that 20% of adults aged 55 and over suffer from mental health issues, yet only two out of three receive proper treatment. Physical health amongst seniors has been paid attention to so much that it overshadows the equal importance of mental health. Most often, they go undiagnosed because they did not know how to explain their issues, or they are hindered by present stigmas. It may be hard to explain that “I am feeling overly sad or lethargic.”, “I am having episodic anxieties,” or “I am experiencing flashbacks.”

Through films, they can watch something related to what they are feeling and get a sense of understanding. For example, watching someone suffer and survive panic attacks in movies can heighten their awareness, more than what the societal stereotypes inform them. They get a sense of understanding that “What I am feeling is really happening, and it happens to someone else.” Ultimately, this can turn in to “If that character survived it, I can too.”


It Fosters Social Discussions

While cinema therapy can be administered alone, it sparks connections when done with a therapist, a family, or a group. Maybe while watching a film about someone suffering from anxiety, a senior impulsively comments, “I feel that too.” They can also feel overly emotional towards a specific character or may show an emotional connection towards particular scenes. Such responses offer a glimpse of whatever emotional baggage they may be carrying. Through relating themselves to the movie, they may find it easier to express their feelings. In turn, it can spark conversations amongst their peers or therapist. These conversations can serve as gateways to deeper discussions and understanding.

This is why group therapy is particularly beneficial. It promotes sharing, fosters bonding, establishes trust, and facilitates coping.


Key Takeaway

Forest Gump, Jack Dawson, James Bond (and the list could go-on), such fictional characters are forever etched into our hearts. One way or another, a certain movie may have changed your entire perspective in life and shaped you to be how you are today. While an emerging amount of studies has proven cinema therapy effective, it is not curative alone. They only offer positive emotions, provide role models, and coping benefits. Metaphorically, movies are like warm cardigans that alleviate coldness. Everyone makes use of cardigans, including seniors.