How Millennials can learn from the seniors in Grace & Frankie

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Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, Jane Fonda at the Grace & Frankie Season 2 Premiere Screening in Los Angeles.

Can Millennials learn life lessons from seniors? I think so, or at least from TV depictions of them.

As an avid watcher of anything Netflix is showing, I came across Grace and Frankie when the first season came out in 2015.

I wouldn’t usually choose this show for myself, seeing as all the main characters are over 70, I figured I wasn’t exactly in the target market. This was a show geared toward people my parents’ age or more, and what could I possibly gain from watching something made for old people!?

However, it was a slow weekend, and I’d already caught up on Orange Is the New Black, so what did I have to lose? If it was good, I’d find a new show to watch, and if it was too far out of my wheelhouse, I’d email my parents and pass on the ‘new show you’d like’ info to them.

I think a lot of the time people my age tend to take for granted that most media is aimed at us, with characters from all walks of life but generally in the same age range. This has the unfortunate consequence of leading us to believe that:

a) we’re the only generation that matters and

b) we will continue to be young and adventurous and the only generation that matters.

If you haven’t yet marathon-ed Grace & Frankie, allow me to break it down for you. Grace Hanson and Frankie Bernstein’s husbands are law partners, and, as it turns out, life partners. The husbands — played by two veteran actors who are 75 or older, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston — have decided after 20 years of hiding their love that it’s time they get on with it, which leaves the wives in quite an unfortunate predicament. ‘Grace & Frankie’ revolves around these two women — played by Jane Fonda (79 years young) and Lily Tomlin (77) respectively — rebuilding their lives and learning to live their ‘new normal’.

One of the most important lessons millennials should take away from this show is that no matter how much we plan for our financial futures, nothing is set in stone. It is always important to plan for the un-plan-able. We are not invincible, and we are not immune to hardship.

A Victory Lap for both the 70-ish actors and the characters they play 

Though both the lead characters had successful careers in their pasts, what I find most inspiring about these women is that they aren’t allowing themselves to feel obsolete. They find new relationships, new hobbies, and most interestingly, a new business venture that they’re passionate about pursuing.
Interestingly, all four lead actors are well over 70, as are the characters they play. These famous veteran actors surely don’t need the money so it’s clear they’re having a great time together extending their careers via Netflix. It’s truly an example of a Victory Lap, the main theme of my Dad’s coauthored book, Victory Lap Retirement.

Not only this, but the Grace and Frankie characters have the confidence to challenge those who say they can’t start a business at their age, and a rather risqué business it is!  This confidence is one of the most resonant aspects of the women’s personalities, and one that is sometimes lacking in younger characters, presumably because as we get older we inevitably care less what others think of us (something I am very much looking forward to). It is this lack of concern for the opinions of others that allows these retirees to pursue their goals full steam ahead— a lesson entrepreneurial millennials would be wise to follow.

Of course, self doubt is an inevitable part of the human experience, and it serves a purpose in certain aspects of life— namely stopping us all from becoming overconfident snots. But having the confidence to know your idea is good, or that you can do something better than it’s being done, is a crucial step to success in business.

Grace and Frankie abounds in life lessons for people of all ages, and with humour and heart, reminds viewers that it’s never too late to build the life you deserve.

Helen Chevreau is a student teacher, freelance blogger and global adventurer. She also happens to be the daughter of Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau (See this recent CBC clip featuring both of them talking about Boomerang Kids). Helen has a B.A. in English and has been blogging for five years. She recently returned from a year in Scotland, where she pursued postgraduate studies in education. 

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