SENIOR POWER: the long goodbye

Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Friday August 08, 2014 - 11:06:00 AM

Francisco Mártinez Roca aka Paco Roca is a strip cartoonist, born in 1969 in Valencia, Spain. Experienced with graphic novels and advertising illustrations, he is most known for comic books like his graphic novel, Wrinkles. (In Spanish, arrugas. Unrelated to the 1978 novel of the same title by Charles Simmons.) 

Paco Roca’s Wrinkles was adapted to motion picture format in 2011 by Ignacio Ferreras and produced by Perro Verde Films. It recently opened in Manhattan. A review by Jeannette Catsoulis, titled "A Toon's (animated film) View of Aging,” appeared in the July 4, 2014 New York Times. She writes, “Whether you find ‘Wrinkles’ an animated look at creeping inanimation, amusing or terrifying will depend almost entirely on which side of 50 you are currently parked. Even the youngest viewer, however, will sense the tragedy coming off this film in waves: It takes more than cartoon characters to buffer the horror of human decline.” Whew! 

Other reviewers differed strongly. When the film premiered at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, Neil Young of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a genuine crowd pleaser deserving of the widest possible exposure" and "one of the most accomplished Spanish films, from any genre, of recent years… Wrinkles takes a commendably unsentimental and nuanced approach to a complex subject, one that avoids melodramatic situations and simplistic characterizations while adhering to certain conventions of this particular sub-genre. ... There's no shortage of genuine poignancy here and though Nani Garcia's score largely hits conventional, predictable beats, each tear is hard earned and never simply 'jerked.' Ferreras' animation style is realistic and direct with close attention paid to tiny specifics of decor, clothing and gesture." 

Wrinkles’ trailer is neither here nor there. “A cast of eccentric characters who rebel against authority in this wonderfully animated and poignant comedy for adults… Using hand-drawn animation, Wrinkles moves freely between the inmates’ daily routines and their more colorful, dementia-induced fantasies, leaving plenty of room for both tears and laughter as it pokes pointed fun at society’s attitude towards the elderly.” Comparing it to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in an old folks home” is unacceptable. 

The story is set in a retirement home and revolves around the friendship between two elderly men, one of whom is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. In the English-language version, Emilio (Martin Sheen’s voice), a former bank manager whose son has placed him in a nursing home, meets Miguel, a wily operator big time with tips for navigating institutional life — especially avoiding the advanced dementia patients’ floor. 

The animation allows one to see through the resident’s eye. That woman sitting by the window all day might be suffering from the long goodbye of Alzheimer’s, but she’s actually on the Orient Express, heading for a new life in Istanbul. 


A review of accessible, related July 2014 literature: 

"At Drexel, testing a new approach to Alzheimer's," by Stacey Burling (Philadelphia Inquirer, July 17, 2014). 

"Roche Reports Mixed Results in Trial of an Alzheimers Drug," by Andrew Pollack (New York Times, July 17, 2014).  

"Roche Alzheimer's drug fails main goals in mid-stage study," by Caroline Copley (Reuters, July 16, 2014). 

"New Culprit Protein Linked to Cognitive Decline, Alzheimer's," by Susan Jeffrey (Medscape Medical News, Jul. 25, 2014).  

"One in three Alzheimer's cases preventable, says research," (British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC] News, July 13, 2014). 

"Sleep disorders may raise risk of Alzheimers, new research shows," by Fredrick Kunkle (Washington Post, July 14, 2014).  

"Smell and eye tests show potential to detect Alzheimer's early," (Eurekalert [American Association for the Advancement of Science], July 13, 2014). 

"Study of noninvasive retinal imaging device presented at Alzheimer's conference," (Eurekalert [American Association for the Advancement of Science], July 13, 2014). 

"Singing familiar songs may help prompt Alzheimers patients to speak," by Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health, July 11, 2014). 

"Alzheimers disease: simplified diagnosis, with more reliable criteria" (, July 7, 2014). 

"Compounded outcomes associated with comorbid Alzheimer's disease & cerebrovascular disease" (Eurekalert [American Association for the Advancement of Science], July 3, 2014). 

"ADSCs (adipose-derived stem cells) transplantation promotes neurogenesis in Alzheimer's disease" (Eurekalert [American Association for the Advancement of Science], July 10, 2014). 

"Plasma Panel Linked to Progression From MCI to Alzheimer's," by Nancy Melville (Medscape Medical News, July 29, 2014).  

"'Alive Inside' illustrates music's joyous power for dementia patients," by Susan King (Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2014).  

"Alzheimer's documentary 'Alive Inside' pushes for music therapy," by Eric Kelsey (Reuters, August 1, 2014). 

"(California Supreme) Court says paid caregivers can't sue if injured by Alzheimer patients," by Maura Dolan (Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2014). 


Is there a censorial attitude towards the aged, especially in the comics? Paco Roca contends that he made nothing up, that his Wrinkles story came from research, not fabrication. Starting in the late 1940s, the national syndicates distributing newspaper comic strips imposed strict censorship. Scripps-Howard pulled Li'l Abner from papers. Time reported that the controversy centered on Al Capp's (1909-1979) portrayal of the U.S. Senate. "We don't think it is good editing or sound citizenship to picture the Senate as an assemblage of freaks and crooks... boobs and undesirables." (Edward Leech of Scripps) 

Perhaps because comics have been considered mostly for children, they have a more rigid censorship code than other media. In general, they are not allowed to include such words as "damn", "sucks", "screwed" and "hell", although there have been exceptions. In the September 22, 2010 Mother Goose and Grimm, an elderly man says, "This nursing home food sucks." In Pearls Before Swine comics from January 11, 2011, a character uses the word "crappy". According to Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams (1957- ,) naked backsides and shooting guns cannot be shown. 

Such issues as sex, narcotics, and terrorism can rarely be openly discussed in strips, although there are exceptions, usually for satire, as in Guy Berkeley "Berke" Breathed (1957- )’s Bloom County adult reading strips. Some cartoonists resort to double entendre or dialogue children do not understand, as in Greg Evans' (1947- ) Luann series, cataloged in children’s library collections.  

Young cartoonists claim commonplace words, images, and issues should be permitted in the comics. Some of the taboo words and topics are regularly mentioned on television and in other visual media. Web comics and comics distributed primarily to college newspapers are much freer. 



The Campaign for America’s Future (at reports that the Social Security Administration is about to close dozens of field offices. The SSA contends that seniors will use their smart-phones or laptops if they need help! The SSA may consider this a money-saving idea, but it could be disaster for seniors with vision problems or arthritis or those who cannot afford a personal computer. Social Security is a great but often complex system. While many seniors are expert computer users, others will struggle. Still others will give up. Sign the petition demanding the SSA keep community field offices open. [ closures ]  

The Department of Justice’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act title III regulation in order to provide closed movie captioning and audio description to give persons with hearing and vision disabilities access to movies. It is published in the Federal Register and open for public comment until September 30, 2014. The Department is interested in the public's views on this NPRM, including answers to the many questions that are posed throughout the document. Submit comments, identified by CRT Docket No. 126 or RIN 1190-AA63, at Or by U. S. mail to Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, POB 2885, Fairfax, VA 22031-0885. For more information about the NPRM, visit the Department's ADA website at A direct link to the page for submitting comments is being added to it. 

“Eva Bluestein, 90, Holocaust survivor, teacher, social activist, loving mother and grandmother, died peacefully in her home on June 12, 2014.” Community members are invited to a memorial for her to be held at 11 A.M. on Sunday August 17 at Congregation Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., in Berkeley.