Most people dread the inevitable declines associated with aging. But to hear the residents of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale tell it, senescence gets a bad rap. In Jenny Schweitzer Bell’s short documentary The Blessings of Aging, dozens of elderly people describe how their lives have improved in their twilight years.
“The thing that bothers me is that my kids are 60 years old—I’m staying young, and they’re getting old!” jokes one man.
Although Schweitzer Bell was initially concerned that her interviewees might not be “exuberant on camera,” those fears were quickly proved unfounded. “What surprised me was that more than 30 subjects sat for me and my questions with unbound enthusiasm and a deep-rooted sense of humor,” the filmmaker told me. “The conversations really challenged my preconceived notions of the aged. We all had a blast during the filming.”
Schweitzer Bell said that many of the people she interviewed found that their personal freedoms had increased with age. “To me, the best part of getting older is losing inhibitions,” says one woman in the film. “I don’t care what anybody thinks. It’s their problem, not mine.”
“The subjects I interviewed allowed me to see another side of aging,” Schweitzer Bell said. “Rather than entering a confining and restrictive stage of life, aging can be liberating—as one woman puts it, ‘A time to do what you like. What you want.’” The filmmaker pointed out that younger people may have a harder time prioritizing themselves, with so many day-to-day obligations and the responsibility of planning for the future.
“It sounds a bit hokey,” Schweitzer Bell said, “but after filming this video, I’m truly excited to get old.”