Though we would never advocate that a senior sit around and watch TV all day (better to get out, get active, meet people and stay engaged with the world around you than to waste away in front of the tube, right?), November 21 is nonetheless World Television Day.
In honor of those denizens of the small screen who bring so many of us joy, laughs and the occasional well-shed tear, here's are five seniors— in genres that range from sci-fi to comedy— out there in TV land’s recent past who have inspired us.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation
He's handsome. He's judicious. He's curious. He is a gentleman, a scholar and an intragalactic warrior. And he's over 60.
For seven years on the small screen, and through four feature films, Sir Patrick Stewart's signature character took us boldly where no man— er, check that, where no one (there, that's better)— has gone before.
From deadly cold war brinksmanship with the treacherous, Soviet-esque Romulans, to resisting the Borg juggernaut, or outwitting the omnipotent Q, Picard lead his crew with a dignity and grace. As equally adept at commanding the bridge in a Red Alert as he was at wearing tights and playing Richard III on the holodeck, Jean-Luc is our choice for Senior of the Future.
Granddad Robert Jebediah Freeman, The Boondocks
Though you may be more familiar with the syndicated comic strip, the sardonic and cynical cast of this well-loved (and sometimes controversial) strip made the move to the small screen in 2005.
It's not easy keeping young'uns in line. But that's just what Huey and Riley's grandfather (and legal guardian) must do. Even though it is obvious that he loves his grandsons and cares about their well-being, he often gets intensely frustrated with their antics.
But even Granddad has his own misadventures. He's a feisty ladies man, although the ladies he dates aren't always the good and wholesome type. But the characterization that endears us most to him? No one knows how old he is. Heck, he doesn't even know— or if he does, he's not telling anyone.
Charlie Rose, Charlie Rose
Since 1991, his PBS roundtable discussion show has brought us compelling interviews with US presidents, world politicians, entertainers, brutal dictators, business leaders, trend setters and even the occasional Muppet.
And the 72-year-old Rose has shown no signs of slowing down. Even after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2006, after developing shortness of breath while on assignment in Syria, Rose returned to helm his landmark program and to keep America's seniors well-informed.
Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia, The Golden Girls
They showed America that characters didn't have to be young and glamorous to be funny and engaging. When the series premiered in 1985, studio execs weren't so sure that a sitcom based on four retired women sharing a home together in Miami would resonate with the general viewership. Given the enduring public support for star Betty White, even from twentysomethings who hadn't been born yet when the series started, it's clear that those execs had underestimated their chance for success.
From Rose's good-natured, St. Olaf born and bred naïveté, to the not-always-friendly rivalry between sharp-tongued Dorothy and promiscuous Blanche, to Sophia's crazy, kooky schemes for getting one over on her daughter, the girls had us laughing, crying and thanking them for being our friends for seven years.
Hershel Greene, The Walking Dead
You may not have had the urge to check out the this popular small screen horror production, but if you spend a lot of time with the grandkids, you may want to sit down an watch a couple of episodes to see what it is that all the kids are talking about.
Whether it’s fighting hordes of zombies, volunteering to aid the sick when a virulent germ threatens form sheriff Rick Grimes' gritty band of survivors, or serving as a lone voice for conscientiousness, reason and compassion in an increasingly brutal post-apocalyptic world, Hershel Greene (who makes his debut in season 2) is the senior citizen who really tugs at our heart strings.
His skill in healing and in finding makeshift remedies aside, Hershel is the moral gyroscope for Rick when things get heavy. He cares for both his daughters, and for the weaker members of the group, with dignity and kindness.
He's also not without flaws; an alcoholic who struggles with the desire to start drinking again after his world falls apart, but you always know that when he falls astray, Hershel will right himself and stand tall— if not leaning a little bit to one side. He has that artificial leg, after all.
There are plenty of compelling senior citizens on TV— now and in re-runs.
This World Television Day, hit the couch— for just an hour or two, mind you— flip on the tube, or log on to Hulu or Netflix, and relive some of your favorite fictional "senior moments." Seeing a few of your favorite over-60 characters living well on television programs just might inspire you to do the same.