The media is infamous for its often negative portrayal of those beyond middle age. But, a number of popular television shows celebrate what it means to grow older and more comfortable in your own skin. Here are 10 TV characters who embrace who they are and own their age. Maybe they can inspire you to do the same.
Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Almost as soon as he graduated from Starfleet Academy, Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) was nearly killed in a bar fight. That experience shaped the officer and man he grew to be. Having come face-to-face with his own mortality, not only did he realize that life is fragile, but the incident also motivated him to find his focus.
As captain of the Enterprise, Picard uses his experience and intelligence to handle the many and varied situations he faces, from decoding the Tamarian language to surviving capture at the hands of the Cardassians. Picard proves that life’s setbacks need not define you. In fact, they can inspire modesty, kindness and courage.
Violet Crawley, Downton Abbey
Violet Crawley (played by Maggie Smith) doesn’t take a back seat to anyone. She may be the Dowager Countess, but she isn’t quietly withering away as her son and family run the household. A proud champion of English traditions, she quickly and forcefully inserts her opinion into every conversation, whether it involves the family or the community. Best of all, she never lets her own misjudgments and missteps prevent her from championing the causes and ideals that matter to her.
Lady Violet is a force with which to be reckoned and she shows us that a woman, no matter her age or when and where she grew up, can own who she is and fight for what she believes in.
Sister Julienne, Call the Midwife
Sister Julienne (played by Jenny Agutter) may be in charge of Nonnatus House, but she is by no means a dictator. Even though Sister Julienne has deeply held convictions, she always strives to see all sides of an issue when resolving problems among the other sisters or working with members of the community who don’t share her ethic. Sister Julienne is a testament to the idea that you can believe passionately in one set of principles but be charitable and sympathetic to those who hold other viewpoints.
Jay Pritchett, Modern Family
Jay Pritchett (played by Ed O’Neill), founder of a closet empire, knows who he is and what he wants from life. Although he’s considerably older than his second wife, Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, he can still keep up with her, even if that means spending an evening on the dance floor. As his family’s patriarch, he’s always there for his children and grandchildren. Sometimes, that means working at the preschool his youngest son attends. Other times, that means helping his two adult children out of the ridiculous situations they often find themselves in.
When he needs some alone time, Jay can be found relaxing on the golf course with his buddies. Jay demonstrates that you can develop an intimate relationship with a younger partner while maintaining your own style, personality and interests.
Hyacinth Bucket, Keeping Up Appearances
Hyacinth Bucket (played by Patricia Rutledge)—who insists that her last name is pronounced “Bouquet”—comes from a solid working class background, but does her very best to hide that fact—going so far as to conceal her relatives from her upper middle class associates. Is she pompous? Extremely. But, she is not daunted by her missed attempts to boost her social status. There’s something very endearing about someone who won’t give up, no matter how often to fail.
Ethel Mertz, I Love Lucy
Ethel Mertz (played by Vivian Vance), although older than her tenant and neighbor Lucy Ricardo (played by Lucille Ball), was more than capable of keeping up with her friend. Whether Lucy was trying to keep pace in a candy production line or vying for a role in show business, Ethel was her loyal companion and voice of reason. Always good-humored, Ethel proves that you can maintain a deep and meaningful friendship with someone who, on the surface, is very different from yourself—and have a lot of fun doing it.
Dean Sanderson, Sr., The Grinder
Dean Sanderson, Sr. (played by William Devane) is the head of a small law firm in Boise, Idaho. Much of his time is spent trying to encourage a sense of fraternity between his two sons. Admittedly, he does come across as somewhat star struck by one of his sons, Dean Jr. But the argument could be made that he’s attempting to embolden Dean Jr. to explore a new career while helping Stewart confront some of his jealousy and resentment toward his brother. Dean Sr. proves that you don’t need to be perfect to be a good parent.
Anita Van Buren, Law and Order
Anita Van Buren (played by S. Epatha Merkerson) is a tough New York City cop, caught up in an array of scandals during her time at the department. Even though she is inherently honest and dedicated to her job, trouble follows her throughout her career. Still, she works relentlessly to remain clear-headed and stable, never compromising her integrity. Lt. Van Buren is the perfect example of a person who has experienced difficult times but refuses to abandon her principles.
Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development
A stint in rehab did nothing to dampen Lucille Bluth’s (played by Jessica Walter) attitude or confidence. Almost as soon as she was discharged, Lucille immediately returned to inserting herself into her family’s lives and enjoying the decadent self-indulgence existence she’s used to. Although she’s made many missteps in her life, Lucille has never let that bother her or sway her from going after what she wants. Even when she goes to prison for various misdeeds, she seems to thrive. Lucille never questions her own judgment and continually follows her own passions, wherever they might lead her.
Jimmy Martino, Grandfathered
Jimmy Martino (played by John Stamos) may be in his 50s, but he has more stamina than some Millennials. When he’s not running his high-end restaurant—a hot spot for A-list celebrities—he’s wooing actresses and models. Having recently found out that he’s not only a father, but a grandfather as well, he’s become less egotistical, learning what it means to be a parent and a role model. Jimmy shows that getting older doesn’t have to mean slowing down, and that life often has a new adventure waiting for you.