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Is the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel the Key to Thriving in Place?

Is the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel the Key to Thriving in Place?

As someone who lives in the oldest county of the oldest state in the nation, I wasn’t surprised to see our local movie theater filled with older Mainers eagerly awaiting the sequel to the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”  For those who are not moviegoers, the film portrays the challenges and joys faced by a group of elderly British retirees who decide to "outsource" their retirement to a less expensive and seemingly exotic palace in Jaipur, India.  Their new home turns out to be the decrepit but charming “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

As the story unfolded, I thought about what made the film so popular with the older crowd.  Certainly there’s the outstanding cast (anything with Maggie Smith and Judy Dench is sure to please), but I suspect it’s the lessons in senior living that captures people’s attention:

  • Marigold Hotel residents fiercely retain their independence but find pleasure and support in their communal setting over delicious meals coupled to housekeeping services that are provided at a reasonable cost.   
  • The daily routine can be predictable and mundane if a resident stays within the hotel grounds or exotic and unpredictable if one ventures into the streets of Jaipur (on foot or motorbike).  Those who aren’t afraid to expose themselves to new ideas in their foreign surroundings seem to thrive.
  • Chronic illness and death are part of the story, but the residents seem to accept these as a natural part of living and soldier onward (perhaps a testament to the stiff British upper lip?).
  • More than the creature comforts afforded by the Marigold Hotel, it’s the relationships and social connections that the residents develop within their small community that bring meaning and fulfillment to their lives.  And it’s not just the bonds they develop with each other.  They routinely interact and care for the young hotel owner, his family and friends.  Such cross-generational relationships are essential to keep the emotional and intellectual lives of older people fresh and renewed.

At MeHAF, we are working with organizations in communities across Maine to figure out how we can help people (including many older Mainers) with chronic illnesses remain as healthy as they can be and live independently in their homes and communities.  This initiative, called “Thriving in Place,” is trying to provide the same experiences and supports that we’d find if each community had their own Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  

We can’t weave in the same type of cultural experience that our British ex-pats indulge in every day, but we can certainly provide the same balance of independence and support with close relationships that ensures a sense of dignity and purpose for older residents.  

What are your thoughts about what it would take to make every Maine community a locale where we could all “Thrive in Place?”     

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