What responsibility do we as individuals have toward homeless people and addressing the problem?
 
To begin with, I think we're prejudiced. I know for myself that I will stop at a red light and there'll be someone there with a sign saying, "I'm homeless, I need help," and I find myself changing the radio station or looking like I'm busy. I choose not to make contact with that person. And I think that's so wrong.
 
My late husband was a wonderful writer. His name was William Goyen, and he wrote something that I have never forgotten. He said that "when we see homeless people or infirmed people, we look away and we shun them, and we take away their light." Which I think is a wonderful way of putting it. They are people who need help. And we as people tend to be prejudiced against them and look away and not give them any help.
 
But more importantly, I think our government must do something about them. A lot of those people were thrown out of hospitals, and they are mentally disturbed and need help. A lot of them just can't make the paycheck, don't have enough money to rent an apartment or a room, and they're out on the street. So I think we need to open our hearts and our pocketbooks a little more than we do.

 

Another issue that comes up in "Our House" is aging, which is also something you've spoken out about.
 
Discrimination Against Older People
I spoke to the Senate about that [ageism], and my opening remark was, "Gentleman, if you were in my business, you'd be out of a job." We have a terrible situation in our country about ageism. I've been very lucky to be on television as long as I have and working as much as I do at my age. But you don't see anybody out there like me, or very few times to they choose to use a woman over the age of 45. There's no magazine that you can open that has a picture of a woman who's over 45 years of age. Not one magazine. It's as if we've been dismissed out of society or airbrushed out of society.
 
Why do you think that is?
 
Because it's a youth-oriented organization, and the magazines that are out there ignore the fact that women over the age of 45 exist. Don't we have judges, don't we have doctors, don't we have lawyers, don't we have teachers, don't we have top executives who are over 45? Of course we do. We're one of the few countries in the world that totally ignores our elders.
 
And I'd like the word "old" stricken from our vocabulary, and the word "older" put in, because the minute we're born we're getting older. So you can call me an older woman, but you can't call me an old woman. There's nothing old about me. My brain functions beautifully, my body's still good, I have no reason at all to throw in the towel. None. Nor do I intend to.
 
What responsibility does our society have toward older people?
 
In less than 12 years, I think, now, we will be the oldest society in the history of the world. And everybody is ignoring that. I think someone has to do something about it. I don't think AARP does anything about it. I don't know who else is out there doing anything about it, but I've got a big mouth, and I open it as often as I can about ageism.
 
There's no reason for me to be dismissed--or anybody in my age group to be dismissed--because we're older. If I were really infirm or I didn't have the use of my good brain, I understand that. But not now. I'm in great shape. I haven't even peaked yet, as far as I'm concerned, as an actor. There's no reason for us to be dismissed. We have an enormous power in this country, but we don't use it. No one has channeled all of that yet. They shall. They will. They're going to have to, because we can't be ignored this way.

I was struck, in the movie, by the theme of finding a purpose in life after a major loss--trying to mourn but also live.
 
Moving on After Loss
I've had that in my own life. I lost my husband in 1983. You move on or you die. You have that choice. You can lie down and die with that person, or you have a period of time that, I believe, you should mourn--maybe six months, no more--then get off the chair, put the coffee cup down, and go out back into the world and try to do something for someone else, if nothing else. And you're back into living. It won't be the same, but it's still life. It's still extraordinary. It's still exciting.