Created By: Maklodes on August 3, 2011 Last Edited By: Antigone3 on July 29, 2014
Troped

Bleak Abyss Retirement Home

The fate of grandma, her ungrateful children never visiting, the patronizing staff treating her like a five-year old

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When the elderly can't take care of themselves, often the most practical solution is a nursing home or assisted living facility. The kids and relatives, if any, have their own lives and can't devote themselves to full time care. Staying in home with a private nursing staff is out of reach for all but the wealthiest. A dedicated facility catering to the needs of the elderly is the pragmatic solution.

But that doesn't make it easy.

When it's time to "put mom in a home," expect a great deal of angst over the decision, quite possibly dividing siblings over the appropriate course of action. Moving to a new place inevitably means abandoning a house filled with personal affects and memories that are irreplaceable. After arrival, it gets worse: the promised once a week visits from the kids become more like once a month, or once a year. The staff is at best patronizingly helpful, perhaps talking like kindergarten teachers to the residents, paying heed to the elder's physical needs but not to any need for dignity. At worst, they could be neglectful or abusive. Expect the food to be bland and possibly pureed.

The home could be run-down and dingy, but even if it isn't, it will often be clinical, antiseptic, and dehumanizing. Attempts at warmth with arts-and-crafts project on the walls will be about as effective as motivational posters at a corporate office.

On the other hand, if the kids have some unresolved issues with their parents, then they might see putting them in sub-par nursing homes and never coming back as kicking the father-of-a-bitch.

No Real Life examples, please.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Japan, Inc.. had a chapter in which the main characters visit a nursing home (one of them has an elderly parent who may need such a facility and the others use this as an excuse to investigate a possible investment.) The place is decent enough, but very depressing, and the characters decide to recommend investing in ways for senior citizens to continue living with family.

Film
  • In Bubba Ho Tep, Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy lived in a run down rest home.
  • In The Invention of Lying, there is a nursing home called "A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People."
  • In The Real Macaw, this is played with: the plot revolves around preventing the main character's grandfather from getting put in a retirement home, but it's because of the grandfather's enormous debt. They had to sell his house to pay it off.
  • In Up, no examples are shown, but the idea is there. The elderly in the Pixar Short George and AJ are so repulsed by the idea of entering a retirement home that they happily follow Carl's example and uproot their houses for destinations unknown. Eventually the denizens of Shady Oaks itself follow suit.
  • In Water for Elephants, this is the framing story.
  • In Win Win, much of the plot revolves around a well-off elderly man unwillingly consigned to an assisted living facility, and who bears responsibility for this. The facility is apparently decent, but the man is still unhappy about leaving his home.
  • Happy Gilmore: the cheerful orderly who runs the place is running an horrific sweat shop.
  • In Carl Reiner's dark farce Where's Papa, the lead character tours a Dickensian nursing home he's considering putting his senile mother in.
  • In She Devil, Ruth accepts a job in an expensive but dehumanizing retirement home, where she quickly proceeds to bring some color into the lives of both staff and retirees, such as a soccer match that proves to be a hit with the old ladies.
  • Gran Torino: One of Walt's sons tries to convince him to move into a retirement home but not at all out of genuine concern for his bitter, elderly, and recently-widowed father, oh no. He just wanted the house, some of the stuff and hoped he'd get the titular Cool Car out of the deal too. One can only presume that this trope would have followed. Walt tells him to go to Hell.

Literature
  • In Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik, the heroine's grandmother lives and dies at such a facility.
  • In Barbara Brooks Wallace's Peppermints in the Parlor, Sugar Hill Hall as seen through the eyes of the orphan girl working there.
  • In Red Dragon, the villain grew up in his grandmother's house modified into a retirement home.
  • Water for Elephants
  • Tricky Business has a downplayed version: while the staff isn't too rude or insulting (except for one guy who threatens to put Phil and Arnold in the Assisted Living wing, aka the loony bin), they're not used to having their patients being very active (in fact, large quantities of drugs are distributed to keep them quiet). Phil and Arnold bribe an orderly by giving him their allotted drugs, which he then sells at parties.
  • In The Twelve Chairs, Ostap Bender visits a retirement home of this kind in search of the MacGuffin. Bleak, antiseptic and run by a very stingy and embezzling administrator (and a bunch of the administrator's relatives chowing on old ladies' rations).

Live-Action TV
  • In House of Anubis, Sarah thinks of her retirement home as this.
  • The Golden Girls
    • Has a Running Gag that Dorothy had put Sophia in Shady Pines, a retirement home so bleak that simply mentioning sending her back would humble her. She was there for five years before the place burned down.
    • In a later episode, Sophia's friend Lillian was in a retirement home that Sophia makes clear is the only home worse than Shady Pines. She then concocts a plan to break her friend out.
  • Inverted in The Sopranos. Tony's mother Livia constantly refers to her retirement home as if its a hell-hole, but on the whole it's shown to be a relatively pleasant place to live
  • Waiting for God: Bayview Retirement Village is portrayed as one of these.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit featured an extreme version of this trope in an episode that dealt with elder abuse. The detectives initially suspected one of its orderlies of abusing an old woman who'd broken out, but later discovered that the manager herself was also abusing her charges, deliberately giving them drugs to induce heart attacks so that she could "rescue" them and thus look like a hero (and presumably pump their grateful relatives for more money.)

Music

Video Games
  • Ann Sheppard from Heavy Rain lives in one. It's implied that Madison is the first visitor she's had in some time.
  • In Mother 3, Alec and Wess are thrown into a retirement home built on the site of Wess's old house.

Western Animation
  • On Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Madame Foster believes retirement homes are a sort of prison where the elderly are brainwashed into compliance with tapioca pudding.
  • The Futurama episode "A Clone of My Own" features a virtual reality to this effect.
    Farnsworth: It was as though I were living in a facility in Florida with hundreds of other old people. All day long we'd play bingo, eat oatmeal and wait for our children to call.
  • The Retirement Castle in The Simpsons is a perfect example of this. The orderlies even go out of their way to make life miserable for the elderly.
  • An episode of Rugrats revolved around a retirement home where the old people were kept out of all the fun activities. Somehow this turned into a riot.
  • Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy from Spongebob Squarepants live in a retirement home, but Mermaid Man's senility keeps him from caring about the bleakness.

Community Feedback Replies: 53
  • August 3, 2011
    Unknown Troper
  • August 3, 2011
    cocoy0
    - I don't know about the film, but the novel Red Dragon had the villain grow up in his grandmother's house that was modified to be a retirement home.

    - Also, a preteen book Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry describes the heroine's granny live and die here. It especially explores the heroine's feelings towards her grandmother.

    - This could also use a bit of Troper Tales.
  • August 3, 2011
    PaulA
    • The home Grandpa Simpson lives in is depicted like this in at least some episodes of The Simpsons.
  • August 3, 2011
    jate88
    You could do seperate tropes for the location and character type.
  • August 3, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    • A Running Gag in The Golden Girls is that Dorothy had put Sophia in Shady Pines, a retirement home so bleak that simply mentioning sending her back would humble her. She was there for five years before the place burned down.
      • In a later episode, Sophia's friend Lillian was in a retirement home that Sophia makes clear is the only home worse than Shady Pines. She then concocts a plan to break her friend out.
  • August 3, 2011
    Tifforo
    The retirement home in The Invention Of Lying has a rather depressing and appropriate name.
  • August 3, 2011
    KTera
    • Ann Sheppard from Heavy Rain lives in one. It's implied that Madison is the first visitor she's had in some time.
  • August 3, 2011
    SKJAM
    The old manga Japan, Inc. had a chapter in which the main characters visit a nursing home (one of them has an elderly parent who may need such a facility and the others use this as an excuse to investigate a possible investment.) The place is decent enough, but very depressing, and the characters decide to recommend investing in ways for senior citizens to continue living with family.
  • August 3, 2011
    SunnyV
  • August 3, 2011
    StGermain
    No example of this is shown in Up, but the idea is there. The elderly in the Pixar Short George and AJ are so repulsed by the idea of entering a retirement home that they happily follow Carl's example and uproot their houses for destinations unknown. Eventually the denizens of Shady Oaks itself follow suit.
  • August 3, 2011
    StGermain
    The Futurama episode "A Clone of My Own" features a virtual reality to this effect.

    • Farnsworth: It was as though I were living in a facility in Florida with hundreds of other old people. All day long we'd play bingo, eat oatmeal and wait for our children to call.
  • August 4, 2011
    h0m3r
    Inverted in [[tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/The Sopranos The Sopranos]], Tony's mother Livia constantly refers to her retirement home as if its a hell-hole, but on the whole it's shown to be a relatively pleasant place to live

  • August 4, 2011
    h0m3r
    whoops, got that wrong
  • August 4, 2011
    Antigone3
    I would suggest limiting Real Life examples to Troper Tales -- this could get flame-y in a hurry.
  • August 5, 2011
    Maklodes
    How do you set up a Troper Tales section to something that's still a YKTTW? Or as the original poster, do I just edit-in "No Real Life examples, please. Troper Tales will be added if and when this is launched," or something to that effect?
  • August 5, 2011
    TonyG
    On Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, Madame Foster believes retirement homes are a sort of prison where the elderly are brainwashed into compliance with tapioca pudding. When some of the friends end up trapped in one, she leads a daring breakout.
  • August 5, 2011
    Loyal2NES
    If people are putting Troper Tales-type entries in a /Main/ page's Real Life section, they're doing it wrong.
  • August 6, 2011
    Antigone3
    @Maklodes -- that's exactly what you would do.
  • August 6, 2011
    Aspie
    • Sarah in House Of Anubis seems to think that her retirement home is this, judging by the negative attitude she has for the staff there:
      Nurse: That's better isn't it, Emily?
      Sarah: No!
  • August 6, 2011
    Bishop22
    Alec and Wess are thrown into a retirement home halfway through Mother3. And where was the retirement home built? Where Wess's house used to be.
  • August 6, 2011
    AFP
    Minor thing, Water For Elephants would go in literature as well, since the movie was based on the book. Pretty good book too, if a bit depressing.
  • August 6, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    the setting for the Britcom Waiting For God
  • August 25, 2011
    Maklodes
    I decided to get rid of the first paragraph on location-focus vs. resident focus (the idea of a trope for the Abandoned Elder). Abandoned Elder might be a good YKTTW, but I think I'll leave it to someone else.
  • August 25, 2011
    Tzintzuntzan
    From Hetty Wainthrop Investigates (a show about an older detective who uses her age for Obfuscating Stupidity), the episode "Helping Hansi." It takes place in a retirement home where one of the managers is constantly scheming to have people kicked out or declared mentally incompetent, so she can seize everything they own.
  • August 25, 2011
    Hedgi
    The home in Barbra Wallace's "Peppermints in the Parlor" is one of these, as scene through the eyes of an orphan girl working there.
  • August 27, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    a Real Life aversion: Some of Japan's oldest living citizens are dying in their homes, not to be found for several days, if not longer. A peculiar phenomenon that suggests that the fate of the elderly is abandonment wheresoever they spend their autumn years.
  • August 27, 2011
    Maklodes
    I think No Real Life Examples Please probably covers aversions too, although I'm not completely certain about that.
  • August 28, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    I just recalled the article, thought it'd be an interesting point. I didn't bullet it, so I wasn't suggesting using it as an example, so I'm perfectly fine with it not being used. :)
  • August 28, 2011
    somerandomdude
    Played with in the movie The Real Macaw; the plot revolves around preventing the main character's grandfather from getting put in a retirement home, but it's because of the grandfather's enormous debt. They had to sell his house to pay it off.
  • June 23, 2012
    Noah1
  • June 23, 2012
    animeg3282
    Is there a sci fi trope where the 'retirement home' is really a euthanasia home?

    For example, in Across The Universe - the eldery go to a special section of the hospital...and are recycled into nutrients.

    And in the No6 anime, the nursing home that Safu's grandmother goes to has a dark secret as well.
  • June 23, 2012
    surgoshan
    • Parodied in Happy Gilmore, in that the cheerful orderly who runs the place is running an horrific sweat shop.
  • June 23, 2012
    reub2000
    Can we add this quote to the simpsons example?
    Homer: Hey, my dad was lousy and I didn't sue him, I just dumped him in the cheapest home I could find.
    Cut to Springfield Retirement Castle where Abraham is on a hospital bed
    Abe: Hey! My IV is empty, and my catheter is full!
    The employee carelessly switches urine and IV bag in opposite places
  • June 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    'Taint no more Troper Tales.

    ^That's a Shout Out to Catch22. There's a soldier in full body cast with an IV drip & a catheter; when one is full and the other empty they switch the two around.
  • June 24, 2012
    Lawman592
    Film

    • In Carl Reiner's dark farce Where's Papa, the lead character tours a Dickensian nursing home he's considering putting his senile mother in.
  • June 24, 2012
    reub2000
    Keep in mind that this YKTTW was last edited about a year ago, when there was a Troper Tales. This is Up For Grabs.
  • September 11, 2013
    Chabal2
    Tricky Business has a downplayed version: while the staff isn't too rude or insulting (except for one guy who threatens to put Phil and Arnold in the Assisted Living wing, aka the loony bin), they're not used to having their patients being very active (in fact, large quantities of drugs are distributed to keep them quiet). Phil and Arnold bribe an orderly by giving him their alotted drugs, which he then sells at parties.
  • September 12, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized work titles and corrected an improper Example Indentation.

    Water For Elephants and Waiting For God are Zero Context Examples and need more information about how they're examples of this trope.
  • September 12, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Film

    • In She Devil, Ruth accepts a job in an expensive but dehumanizing retirement home, where she quickly proceeds to bring some color into the lives of both staff and retirees, such as a soccer match that proves to be a hit with the old ladies.
  • September 13, 2013
    aurora369
    In The Twelve Chairs, Ostap Bender visits a retirement home of this kind in search of the Mac Guffin. Bleak, antiseptic and run by a very stingy and embezzling administrator (and a bunch of the administrator's relatives chowing on old ladies' rations).
  • September 13, 2013
    arbiter099
    • Gran Torino: One of Walt's sons tries to convince him to move into a retirement home but not at all out of genuine concern for his bitter, elderly, and recently-widowed father, oh no. He just wanted the house, some of the stuff and hoped he'd get the titular Cool Car out of the deal too. One can only presume that this trope would have followed. Walt tells him to go to Hell.
  • June 2, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.

    Does a place that is not a nursing home but otherwise fits the idea of neglect qualify?
  • June 2, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Tricky Business has one that, while not entirely miserable (the two old guys are more active than most of the patients, which causes friction with them and the staff), does give out massive amounts of medication seemingly at random to keep their patients easy to handle. Two of the protagonists bribe an orderly by giving him their allotted drugs, which he then sells at parties.
  • June 3, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Live Action TV
    • Law And Order Special Victims Unit featured an extreme version of this trope in an episode that dealt with elder abuse. The detectives initially suspected one of its orderlies of abusing an old woman who'd broken out, but later discovered that the manager herself was also abusing her charges, deliberately giving them drugs to induce heart attacks so that she could "rescue" them and thus look like a hero (and presumably pump their grateful relatives for more money.)

  • June 4, 2014
    Alvin
    The titular place in The X Files episode "Excelsius Dei" is sort of like this, but I can't remember anything specific, other than the name is misspelled and once it is discovered that the residents are being revitalized by special mushrooms the people in charge have it stopped.
  • July 2, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Launching soon? Is the sponsor there?
  • July 2, 2014
    DAN004
    Somebody plz launch this.
  • July 3, 2014
    AgProv
    Music:

    • Simon And Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson

      Just a little secret, just a Robinsons' affair;
      Most of all we've got to hide it from the kids!
  • July 3, 2014
    TonyG
    ^What does this have to do with retirement homes?
  • July 4, 2014
    AgProv
    @Tony G: check out the lyrics. The film Mrs Robinson is largely about a young man's relationship with an older married woman. The song Mrs Robinson is about a family consigning their slightly confused mother/grandmother to a care home but feeling guilty about it and wanting to hide it from the kids - so it would fit this YKTTW pretty much completely.

    It's got the slightly patronising attitude:

    We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files (institutional bureaucracy)
    We'd like to help you learn to help yourself.
    Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes,

    It's got guilty adult children who make the decision to dump her there:

    It's a little secret just the Robinson's affair.
    Most of all you've got to hide it from the kids.

  • July 4, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ You mean, Implied Trope?
  • July 29, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump. This has five hats. Who can launch it?
  • July 29, 2014
    Antigone3
    I'll launch as soon as I pull the new(er) examples over. Tomorrow at the latest.

    Aging Tropes would be the obvious index, can anyone think of others?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ofx3taznmepgdz4g9h64hwbj&trope=BleakAbyssRetirementHome