FRAN PAINO AKA F. DELLA NOTTE
Look out, there, you young whipper-snappers – (anyone under the age of 60.) Pursuing exciting and noteworthy activities like crime-solving isn’t limited to those more youthful people. Your elders are still learning and finding new avenues and adventures too. Here’s a surprise for you. You grow in wisdom exponentially when you pass the half-century mark, as we see in so many of the senior sleuths in today’s fiction.
There is a surging interest in books with senior sleuths that may be generated by those who have raised their children to adulthood, retired or are semi-retired from their vocations, professions, and jobs, and still have active minds and bodies. They enjoy reading about contemporaries in fiction with the same attributes of time, curious minds, and the inclination to fit puzzles together, and not just on a tabletop.
Or perhaps this new appreciation for exciting possibilities after Social Security and Medicare kick in is on the rise among the youngster (under age fifty) who want something to look forward to beyond the antiquated concept that life slows down after sixty. Then it’s all dreary golf, bingo, and blue plate specials – while you wait to die. The authors of the older sleuth mysteries squash that concept with humor and wisdom.
Our elderly protagonists may stumble in their quests to solve crimes, but it doesn’t faze them because they know making mistakes is part of growing older gracefully. They’re stronger for having experienced the fullness of life with pain, sorrow, joy, failure, accomplishment, and everything else that goes with it.
Unlike many Asian, Native American Indian, and African cultures where elders are considered people of greater wisdom to be respected and consulted, Americans, obsessed with the youth and beauty fetish, fear aging and often shun aging.
In Greece, ‘old man’ is not a derogatory term. In Greek-American cultures, old age is honored and celebrated, and respect for elders is central to the family.” The African proverb, ‘A village without the elderly is like a well without water, ‘expresses their cultural approach to old age.
The importance of older generations is emerging in our society as Americans continue living longer. As noted by Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research at AARP (a nonprofit organization focused on civic engagement for people 50 years and over), “As Americans continue living longer, society must redefine what it means to get older. It’s encouraging that most older adults feel positive about their lives…. But we have work to do to disrupt damaging negative associations around aging.”
We hope that America’s cultural view of the beauties and blessings of growing older is improving, and it’s feasible that the surge of interest in the senior sleuths of fiction will help. Life often does imitate art, and the adventures and lives of fictitious characters will help turn younger Western attitudes into a more positive recognition of all seniors have to offer.
In the Housekeeper Mystery Series, Mrs. B., the protagonist, is a feisty, energetic, strong-willed, and outspoken senior citizen who has raised her children to adulthood, battled and beaten breast cancer, then lost her beloved husband. In book one, I’m Going to Kill that Cat, on a lark, Mrs. B. answers an ad for a new housekeeper needed at St. Francis de Sales. She is invited to interview for the position and is hired by the pastor, Father Melvyn Kronkey. Thinking her new vocation was just the care and upkeep of the priests and the rectory, she could never have imagined the new life of solving crimes she’d be thrust into when she rang the doorbell of the rectory.
Below, I have included several links to a wide range of mysteries featuring senior sleuths, the motivations of the authors who wrote them, and information on cultures that deeply respect age.
And remember: We are older, but we are not dead. Not by a long shot!
Who knew getting old was so much fun?