Monday, September 24, 2012

"Gen Silent": Documentary shows difficulties seniors face with receiving (and giving) eldercare

The Arlington Agency for Aging, at the Arlington Department of Human Services near the Route 50 and Washington Blvd Interchange in Arlington VA, held a screening of the 63-minute documentary “Gen Silent” this morning. The film (63 min), directed by Stu Maddox and distributed by Interbang, documents the currents status of eldercare for gays and lesbian seniors, focusing on the Boston area.

The film tells the story of at least six aging seniors.  There is a 40-year interracial male couple, where one, now with lymphoma, has been the other’s (Lawrence) caregiver for ten years and contemplates having to put his lover into a nursing home. There is a sprightly older female couple with a household of cats (who steal the camera’s attention). There is a tragic story of KrysAnne, a transgendered person and veteran (as a male).  After she had her gender change, she met resistance in her own extended family, who would return mail with “lose this address” scribbled as refusal notices.  She slowly dies of lung cancer, and the film documents her progression.  Finally, volunteers arrange a system of caregiving shirts that reminds one of what was done in the 1980s by PWA Buddy Projects. It would take a lot for people to give others this kind of time now. 

The film starts out at a Boston LGBT Pride parade, and shows how older people experienced harassment, back in the McCarthy era, and discrimination unknown to many younger adults.  Some seniors march, and they even stage their own tea dance. But soon the film is showing how many seniors experience mistreatment by staff in institutions, and how, at least outside the most expensive major cities, senior living companies have not tried very hard to train staff on LGBT issues. So many return to their older internalized homophobia, and some don’t even want openly gay visitors.

The film has played in many LGBT film festivals, but not yet, as far as I know, in DC's Reel Affirmations.  

The link is here.

The film does not cover an overview problem, which is that with longer lifespans and smaller families, caregiving responsibilities are going to fall on many more people in the future, including many of those who did not have their own children.  A few generations ago, unmarried women were expected to stay around home as “family slaves”, but their own parents didn’t usually live long when they became infirm, as they do today. 

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