Many months ago, when Working Films started laying the groundwork for our Reel Aging residency and follow-up campaign, my understanding of issues related to aging was fairly limited. Probably like many people, especially my peers in our early 30s, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the later stages of my life. The older members of my family are in good health, so our family hasn’t had to deal with many challenges or crises related to aging. So, with no sense of urgency, and a culture that doesn’t particularly encourage us to think about our older years, my knowledge about “aging” issues was slim.

After watching the films and meeting the filmmakers we selected for the Reel Aging residency, I started having new and unexpected conversations within my own family. Questions came up with my parents such as “Can we talk about your concerns if you reach the point of not being able to live on your own?”, “What resources will we need to make those preferences a reality?” With my husband Johnny, we started to think more about what resources we needed in place for our retirement.

It was clear to me that the eleven media projects we selected for Reel Aging were powerful and compelling, but now, after spending five days strategizing with the producers at the recently completed Reel Aging residency and hearing from them directly about their passion for their projects, I am sure that these media projects will make an impact.

All of these stories opened new conversations among those of us that participated in Reel Aging: the media makers, our Working Films team and our two strategists from the “aging movement: Anne Basting, Director of the Center on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and Donna Phillips Mason, who recently retired from the National Council on Aging. We were lucky enough to have these two incredible women with us for the entire duration of the Reel Aging residency. They shared their experience and insight in the field and helped prepare the filmmakers to take their messages and ideas to the more than 40 organizations that joined us for the Reel Aging convening day on March 27th.

That day organizations such as Leading Age, AARP, the Scan Foundation, Meals on Wheels Association of America, the Administration on Aging, the Center for Creative Aging and many others sat down face to face with the Reel Aging media makers and offered ideas for how these film projects could be used in trainings, to foster essential conversations within families, to engage their memberships and to move public policy.

At Working Films we are looking forward to supporting not only partnerships between these individual media makers and organizations but also to coordinating a collective campaign that embeds the media projects into strategic change initiatives to improve and secure the rights, dignity, and overall well-being of older adults in society. Several organizations mentioned interest in a festival or series featuring multiple films and other media. This is just one potential avenue for collectivizing the projects. We are exciting about pursuing this idea and others with both the filmmakers and the organizations.

As for me personally, I envision more frank and interesting conversations about aging with friends and family and am delighted to have a new framework that will broaden my lens on the world and positively affect the community-based work that I do in Working Films’ hometown of Wilmington, NC.

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