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December 31, 2007

DVD's

DVD's will be available for sale on January 7th. So stay posted.

In the meantime:

Ever since yesterday's blog I am getting emails about various seniors who have had some incredible adventures. Although Room 335 is about residents at assisted living these stories are pretty cool:

Bill Anderson, the 78-year-old bicycler, yesterday completed his ride from San Diego, California, to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and received a police escort as he completed the 3,000 miles trip and raised over $3,000 for the homeless.

Bill reached Jacksonville, Florida after riding 64 miles from Lake City. During his ride, Bill dropped his bottle water and stopped to reach for it. Unfortunately his foot got caught between the pedal and the tire and he suffered a minor fall. "I skinned my knees but that was it," says Bill.

That, however, did not stop him from reaching his final route destination - Jacksonville Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. This he was met by a Jacksonville Beach Police escort that accompanied him all the way to the beach where a welcome celebration was already in place.

Anderson made this ride to raise awareness and support for the Crossroads Mission, a faith-based homeless shelter in Yuma, Arizona.

He had previously made a trip from Canada to Mexico for the mission and now claims to be the first person to cross the U.S. in both directions on a bicycle.

December 30, 2007

Horseman

This is an article I found online. Might get boring at times but, I mean, it's impressive.

Nov. 24, 2005 - Long Rider Gene Glasscock at age 70 is about to complete a horseback journey of over 20,000 miles and three years in his quest to visit every state capital in the lower 48 states. He will arrive tomorrow at his last capital city – Columbus, Ohio. He is raising scholarship money for the children of Paraguay and sending a message to senior citizens.

On Thursday, he and his supporters will be met by Director of Agriculture Fred Dailey outside the Ohio capitol at 12:30 p.m. A reception for Gene and his guests will follow in the capitol lounge, hosted by State Auditor, Betty Montgomery.

Tomorrow he and his supporters will meet the mayor of Columbus at city hall at 9:30 a.m.

Though Glasscock can reasonably be considered a true citizen of the world, he is a native Texan, born in Farmersville. He can trace his Texas roots back to the 1820s. He was surprised no one from Texas state government greeted him in Austin. It was the first capital where he received no official reception. He shrugs it off.

Gene visited capitol number 47 on November 2 in Lansing, Michigan.

In September 2002, Gene, a founding member of the Long Riders Guild, began a journey in Denver to follow the route taken by four riders in 1912 who visited all 48 states. The Overland Westerners, as the original group was called, began their journey from the state of Washington. They rode a total of 20,352 continuous miles throughout the years of 1912 to 1915, making them the first, and only, Long Riders to accomplish such a feat.

Gene was 67 at the time he began this trip, the oldest person known by the Long Riders to make such a journey. He has two purposes for making the trip and the first is to raise money for the Philips Fund, a unique scholarship program that offers underprivileged young adults from Paraguay the chance to attend Pensacola (Fla.) Christian College.

Glasscock spent two years in Paraguay teaching English as a second language and Bible classes to children. Hearing loss in his right ear made it hard for him to continue teaching. He left the country, but his thoughts often drift back to those children and their parents. "It's easy to tell somebody you love them, but more often than not it's just empty words," he says. "I've always believed if you love somebody you want to help them make their life better if you can."


The second reason for his trip is to send a message to an "often overlooked" portion of America's population, its senior citizens. As he told the Long Riders Guild, "I know I'm older now. But I can still swing into that saddle. So even if I have to ride a little slower, I want older people to look at me and realize they don't have to just sit on the porch and do nothing. I'm proof positive that they can mount up, ride out, and still live life."

Glasscock is a legend among equestrian enthusiasts. He is the only person on record to have ridden from North to South America. In the mid-1980s, he rode 12,000 miles from the Arctic Circle in Canada to the Equator in Ecuador. It took him two years.

That trip killed one of his horses and almost him. The journey began with Glasscock swimming in the Klondike River after a polar bear spooked his horse. It came to a successful end only after brushes with armed robbers, exposure to political executions and imprisonment by the Sandinistas in the Nicaraguan civil war and weeks spent hacking his way through the dark jungles that connect Central and South America.

He rides 15-20 miles a day, although he's done as much as 40. He stays with host families and has had to sleep under the stars only twice. His trip was delayed earlier this year when he had to pause for a hernia operation.

His initial mounts for this journey were George and Frank, two six year old Tennessee Walker geldings named in homage of George Beck and Frank Heath, Gene's predecessors. After completing the first 10,000 miles, Gene contacted the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program for assistance in procuring two mustangs to help him finish the journey.

Tosi, a black mustang gelding gathered in 1997 in Lander, Wyo., was trained in South Carolina where he was used on a trail program and an equine therapy program. Gene uses him both as a mount and a pack animal.

Buddy, an eight year old sorrel mustang gelding, was gathered from Adobe Town, Wyo. He was trained by inmates of the Colorado Department of Corrections through a special program which helps inmates improve their lives. After training, Buddy joined Gene in Oklahoma.

In February, 2006 a wild horse adoption is coming to Columbus at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair grounds where those interested and qualified will be able to adopt a wild horse. Gene, as an adopter of a wild horse, is supporting the event to encourage others to enjoy the challenges and benefits of owning an "American Legend". Perhaps you to will become a "Long Rider," he says. Call 800-293-1781 for more information about the adoption.

Visit the Wild Horse and Burro Web site, http://www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov/, for more information about the wild horse adoption program and adoption schedule.

Visit Gene's website, www.geneglasscock.org to view the map of his historic journey, read his trip journals or make a contribution to his fund.

December 29, 2007

First One

I just got an email about a great way to spend some of your time.

In various locations around the country, you can spend an hour or two to volunteer at an elderly facility. Maybe you should bring a camera...

It'll only take a few minutes to get involved:

http://www.littlebrothers.org/

Tell us your stories

As the movie has played I have received many emails from people across the country who have terrific stories about volunteering at elderly homes. I am thinking from here on out all those who read the blog should send us a message telling the world about your story.

Let's try it out!

Also, and I will continue to mention this, but our great website guru Noah from TN Integrated Solutions has informed us that we're getting thousands of hits a day...so stay posted and keep contributing.

December 27, 2007

Andrew Jenks, Room 335

Well, it's now official:

Andrew Jenks, Room 335 Premiers on January 15th at 7PM on Cinemax!

Please stay posted for much more information!

There are so many reasons that we made this movie. There are many times in life when you don't know why you're really doing something, only afterwards realizing all of the reasons that it made sense. In the next month I hope we can have a two way discussion about the film, the elderly in America, and how we can make positive change for the future. Please keep posting messages/responses to these blog entries.

Up until the premiere date I am going to post the latest news on the film, where you can find us promoting it, etc. Don't forget to check out old posts about what's been going on!

Here is some background/statistics on the actual topic of aging in America. Soon, we will get to the parts that really matter in our movie: the characters that changed our lives.

Some basic info:

Today, there are 35 million senior citizens living in America. In about twenty-five years, that number will more than double, to about 71 million. Surprisingly, nobody seems to realize that our country will have to do something with all of these people. Ancient civilizations treated their elderly as kings and pearls of wisdom. Eastern cultures follow a similar pattern: Japan has their own ‘Old Folks Day’.

But not us.

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and even so-called elderly resorts are everywhere. ‘McAging Homes’ have amassed across the country to become a multi-billion dollar industry. As the baby boomer generation now reaches their golden years, this trend will only grow.

Sometimes statistics and growing problems are treated like an economics test: we evaluate the dilemma and properly allocate the necessary solutions. However, what happens when we personalize this issue? After all, we are talking about our parents, our grandparents, our friends, and eventually, ourselves. We are talking about a generation that made us, and the world we live in, possible.

It's no secret that we're all getting older. The inevitability of aging looms over us every time we admire youth, worry for an elderly relative, or even look in the mirror. However, we know very little about the thoughts and minds of the older population of our nation. Sure, we've heard about their great achievements historically, their healthcare wars, and their politics, but how often do we look deeper into their individual lens? How often do we ask questions about their inner most thoughts: the things that make them tick? Not so long ago the senior citizens were asked all kinds of questions; they were the voice that led new generations into the future. It seems we've learned to feel bad for the elderly; as if life is over for them, and they've entered into a period of demoralizing waiting. Should we feel bad? Are they numb? What triggers their nostalgia? What do they have to offer younger generations? And, how do they feel about life after life?

December 19, 2007

Busy in NY

So we're busy in NY. Working on a new movie while promoting Room 335. We'll let you know when we might be somewhere hopefully promoting the film. We're excited for it to come out...

Here's more of a recent interview in Dallas:

Women tend to outlive men, certainly they outnumber the
men
who are characters in your film and who are I guess are
residents at Harbor Place. How did that affect the
dynamic, the social dynamic there?

Mr. JENKS: That's a good question. Well, I think one--in
a lot of ways, the guys--the men, I should say, I was
going
to say guys, the men turned out maybe to be a little bit
lonely because there wasn't a lot of, as you said, men
there. And not only that, but maybe this is too big of a
generalization, but I think as men get older and older,
they tend to be less and less social.

So it was--kind of the women would go up to each other and
do nail polishing and play BINGO and would go on the
weekly
field trips, whereas the men weren't always so interested
in that. But with that said, I became good friends,
really
best friends with one of the guys there who tended to
wander a lot and didn't really have many friends and
didn't
talk a whole lot. And we sort of had a bond because we
were both kind of in that same place, although at totally
different ages.

BOYD: This is Bill that you're talking about.

Mr. JENKS: Right, exactly.

BOYD: What I thought was really cool about that
relationship and people will see it in the film is that he
really had this desire to kind of roughhouse with you and
I
thought it was cool that you did that; that you didn't
treat him like he was fragile and frail. Did he take a
little while for you to feel like that was OK?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, absolutely. There was a moment--a night
in the film where kind of a big turning point where things
started to change and it was at that point where I started
to realize that, you know, this wasn't just a movie or
kind
of me moving in with a bunch of old--like I was actually
becoming friends with a lot of these people and I should
treat them like that.

And Bill was one of the guys that, you know, I could sit
for a few hours on a bench and just screw around and he
was
also really strong, like there was no joking around there.
When he punched me, it really hurt and I'd try and punch
him back and he had huge arms and he--he was a big guy, so
it wasn't like--it wasn't like I was trying to take it
easy
on him, he was much stronger than I was.

BOYD: There's one point where a staffer comes and yells
at
him for hitting you, which is the funniest thing.

Mr. JENKS: Well, I was--he was pretty bald, so I was
tapping his bald head, making fun of him and so he just
grabbed a huge chunk of my hair and, you know, kind of
threw me down on the side and the staffers came running
out, 'Bill, what are you doing? What are you doing?' And
he said he was just fooling around.

BOYD: And he--every single day he would walk to the
Dollar
Store with like a big wad of cash. Can you talk about why
he did that?

Mr. JENKS: Well, every resident there seemed to--they
were
all independent in their different ways and they were all
very different people. So someone like Tammy, as I was
saying earlier, who was physically very restricted, had
all
of her mental--you know, could think and tell great jokes.
And so, in a lot of ways she used her independence to help
out the other residents, and her independence was her
mind.
It was her ability to make jokes.

And Bill, who suffered from dementia, wasn't always able
to
put together a complete sentence or maybe remember
someone's name, but he was able to walk and he didn't need
a wheelchair. So he could leave the area every day and
walk, I don't know what it was, maybe half-mile, quarter
of
a mile, to a Dollar Store and he would go and buy candy
and
different little items and then he'd give it to different
residents. And that was his way of showing compassion.

So he couldn't necessarily talk to you, but he could give
you something and say, 'Hey, I remember you. I remember
you're the one that likes the Snickers bar, and so here's
your Snickers bar for the day.' So it was an incredible
demonstration of all these different people using whatever
independence they had to help someone else out.

BOYD: Yeah, and there were a couple of times where I
don't
know if he didn't recognize you or what the story was, but
Bill would spend a day not even acknowledging that he saw
you.

Mr. JENKS: I think as time went on Bill would ask more
and
more when we were leaving or where we were going after
this. And there was a recognition on his part that this
wasn't going to last forever and there's a point which is
in the film where we talked to one of the staff, the
people
who worked at the facility, and they say that Bill was
pretty quiet before we came and didn't talk a whole lot.
And I think in a way he was kind of upset or maybe even
felt betrayed that we were leaving him.

BOYD: Yeah, it's a particularly poignant moment because
it
almost--it reminds you of like a kid that has gotten
really
close to some uncle or somebody and realizes that the stay
is going to end and is having trouble coping with it.

Mr. JENKS: Exactly. Exactly.

BOYD: Did you feel guilty about leaving?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, definitely, in a lot of ways, I think
especially with someone like Bill, who we're there, we're
genuinely befriending these residents and then we're just
there for five weeks and we take off, where that's
certainly not the case for them. I mean these people are
here to stay or there to stay and for us to kind of just
jump in, get a feel for things and then leave, you feel a
certain sense of betrayal.

BOYD: One thing that I thought was interesting is that
these people are--they're all there ostensibly because
it's
probably the last place that they're going to live and
they've all sort of acknowledged this, and yet all of them
are really grateful for still being alive and they're
aware
that every day is kind of a gift.

And we're about to hear in a minute from Tammy once again,
but I'm wondering if you can talk for just a moment about
what surprised you about how much they wanted to hang on
to
the life they had left.

Mr. JENKS: They all--they all really wanted to soak in
the
moment and they all did it in different ways. There was
one great example of a couple who I met and it was clear
to
me that they had been married for like 50 years and I went
up to them and I said, 'Oh wow, so how long have you guys
been married for?'

And the man looked at me and he goes, 'Oh no, we're not
married. We met in the dining hall a few months ago.'
And
it was just like--it was like anything else, you know, he
picked her up at the dining hall, now they'd been dating
for a few months and they held hands everywhere they went
and they were just living in the moment.

(Sound Bite of "Andrew Jenks, Room 335")

BOYD: There were some times when--on one night in
particular--when it was really scary there. Can you talk
about that?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, I mean there was one night when the
electricity went out and you're dealing with 300, you
know,
senior citizens, who all of them aren't able to get around
so well and some of them suffer from dementia. And so,
it's difficult in that sort of situation to handle what
was
kind of a little mini crisis on their hands. And I think
in a lot of ways that was turning point in our experience
in that we really realized that we cared about these
people
and we kind of felt that--we really felt that that night.

BOYD: Did you feel like they were--we should say the
facility you went to seems to have been a nice place as
these places go. Did you feel like they were adequately
cared for?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, absolutely. I think in the film in that
one situation during the blackout, you're talking about,
as
I said, 300 residents and unless you have 300 staff
members
there that night when the electricity somehow happens to
go
out, it's going to be very hard to have an adequate, you
know, staff on hand. And, you know, they did their best
and in the end everyone was accommodated.

There's not to say there wasn't kind of difficult moments
during that night, but I think all and all--and if you see
the film, it's a beautiful place, they have a lot of
activities and they really did, you know, care about their
residents.

BOYD: How did they deal with conflict when it would come
up between one resident and another?

Mr. JENKS: What I enjoyed about it--enjoyed about the
experience in terms of conflict was that they let them
kind
of, you know, argue or say things back and forth and--I
mean, you're talking about residents?

BOYD: Yeah, I'm talking about how, you know, when one
would argue with the other, how they would sort of deal
with it.

Mr. JENKS: Like anyone else really, they'd resolve it on
their own or they wouldn't talk to each other for a week
or
two and forget about it. It was sort of like any
other--anything else in life, or anyone else in life.

BOYD: Seems like TV was a big thing for a lot of
different
people, you watched a lot of "Jeopardy" while you were
there?

Mr. JENKS: "Jeopardy," they knew like the CNN and Fox
News
like primetime line-up, they had it down. They knew like
whether they liked Anderson Cooper or they liked, I don't
know, Bill O'Reilly, all those different kind of talking
heads, they knew all about. Tammy watched Larry King
religiously, even on Sunday nights, I think it was a
repeat. She wasn't happy about that. So, there was an
infatuation with cable news specifically, which I thought
was interesting. They were trying to keep up with what
was
going on in the world.

BOYD: Yeah, that's a very interesting point that they are
not sort of disengaged, and you point out that they're in
kind of a walled facility. I mean they're not prisoners,
they can come and go, but they still wanted a part of the
world around them.

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, absolutely. And that was kind of a
great
example of that. Every night they wanted to watch news,
they wanted to know what was going on, they're very able
to--they could talk about politics or--at the time
actually, the Michael Jackson trial was going on, and so
they were all like in tune for that and, you know, that
was
on TV all day so they were kind of watching that nonsense.
And, you know, they were living--they were living for it
all.

BOYD: Did you and your friends, would you sort of go out
at night when everyone would fall asleep? Did you need a
way to kind of decompress from the experience of working
there and being there?

Mr. JENKS: No, we stayed in pretty much every night. We
tried to really live the life that they would lead. So
they weren't really able to go out at night and--you know,
go out to dinner, go to a party, so we didn't. We stayed
in every night and, you know, watched TV or looked through
footage we had filmed that day. Pretty much the place
would shut down by, you know, 7:00 or 8:00, and we stay up
obviously much later than that. So we found, you know,
our
own ways to entertain ourselves.

BOYD: What do you think they thought of you?

Mr. JENKS: I think the residents that--most of the
residents loved us just being there. I don't think they
even looked at the cameras because they didn't care about
the cameras. It was just a matter of these three young
guys living there and talking to them and asking them
question, I think that was very refreshing for them.

It was almost, you know, surreal, they couldn't really
believe why someone would live there with them and ask
them
all questions and talk to them and hang out with them.
And
then those that didn't really engage with us just didn't
really care much to meet us. They were living their lives
and didn't see any reason to get to know these guys who
were staying here for one summer.

BOYD: Was anybody happy to be there?

Mr. JENKS: Happy to be there? That would be a difficult
question. I don't know if anyone was happy. I don't know
if anyone would say it was an ideal situation. I think a
lot of them would have preferred to be with friends and
family, but a lot of the residents realized that was
unrealistic and that, you know, either their friends and
family had passed away or that they're living far away and
couldn't take care of them.

I found it extraordinary how few of the residents were
upset or bitter about living there. They weren't really
mad at anyone. A lot of them had come to accept that this
is where they were in their life.

BOYD: It was a really interesting dichotomy because on
the
one hand they would talk about, you know, other societies
and other cultures, and these were mostly white, somewhat
affluent residents that you appear to have and they would
talk about how other cultures might not have done this,
and
yet they also shared this fear almost of being a burden or
being an imposition to their children and their
grandchildren.

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, it kind of speaks back to their need for
independence and they didn't want to be perceived as, you
know, being a bother, and that was the last thing that
they
wanted to be. They wanted to be doing their own thing and
have their own lives and the notion of them being taken
care of by their families and, you know, having their
families to worry about them was the last thing they
wanted. They were so selfless in that way and it really
went across the board.

BOYD: Do you think you'll feel that way--you know, it's
funny, I think younger people tend to hope that they'll be
that way, but secretly hope that someone younger will take
care of them and I wonder if there's just something that
changes as you get older?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, I think--I think it really more than
anything spoke to their love for their family and friends.
They really didn't want to be a burden and it's just a
sort of selfless mentality that they all had attained at
that point in their lives.

BOYD: What do you think about their self-esteem?

Mr. JENKS: You know, I think it was high. I think they
all were confident with who they were and, you know, they
all--Bill, for instance, would wear these Hawaii shirts
and
these big thick glasses and would roll up his socks and
had
these white sneakers and he loved talking to people about
how nice his shirt was.

And Tammy would go around and tell these jokes, and you
have to be confident to be a comedian. And Libby, another
character, would get in a lot of fights with people and
would always speak her mind. I think everyone was
very--you know, at that point in their life they're pretty
sure of who they are as people and very willing to be who
they are in front of anyone.

BOYD: Were there rules for them, for the residents that
surprised you?

Mr. JENKS: Rules that the assisted living facilities put
on residents?

BOYD: Yeah, put on the residents.

Mr. JENKS: That surprised me? No. You know, you had
to--I think you were supposed to sign in and sign out when
you came and left. I remember Bill saying that he didn't
always follow that rule. And they had a very good--the
staff there had a very good understanding of what the
residents did and so there wasn't a lot of rules that
really surprised me, no.

BOYD: One thing that was interesting toward the beginning
of the film, you're sort of getting a tour and you learn
that someone checks on everybody in the middle of the
night
to make sure that, I guess, they're still alive.

Mr. JENKS: Right.

BOYD: And they didn't all want that.

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, again, it's kind of the motif here is
this independence thing is the idea for them to have
someone coming in, in the middle of the night while
they're
sleeping to see how they're doing felt old to them
probably, felt like something you would do if you were
really old and they didn't want that. You know, in a lot
of ways they probably would have said, 'If they passed
away
in the middle of the night, they passed away in the middle
of the night.'

They would prefer it that way than giving up that sort of
independence, giving up, you know, their key on the door
for someone to just walk in. And so, a lot of the
residents just had this black sticker outside of the room,
which is the indicator that, you know, they didn't want to
be bothered at night.

BOYD: My guest is Andrew Jenks. He's the filmmaker who
made "Andrew Jenks, Room 335." It will be shown tonight
at
the Angelica Film Center in Dallas. It starts at six,
you'll need to make a reservation. You can check about
that on the THINK page of kera.org. We'll take a quick
break and then return to our discussion. If you'd like to
join us, you can send email to think@kera.org, or you can
call 1-800-933-5372.

* * *

BOYD: You're listening to THINK on KERA 90.9, I'm Krys
Boyd.

Filmmaker Andrew Jenks is my guest. He made "Andrew
Jenks,
Room 335," which will air tonight--rather, will be shown
tonight at the Angelica Film Center in Dallas. And he
will
appear there at that screening. You can also see it on
Cinemax January 15th, it's an HBO documentary. You can
join the conversation today at 1-800-933-5372, or by
emailing think@kera.org.

Did you start to think about your own body in a different
way during the time that you were there?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, I stretch now every day. No, yeah, I
did
change a few things. I think looking at someone like Bill
who is very active, you kind of can see the benefit from
doing small things, like stretching or being a little bit
more active.

BOYD: Did you feel healthier somehow than you had before?

Mr. JENKS: No, not really to be honest.

BOYD: Did it become easier to imagine these people as
young people or did it become easier to imagine yourself
when you're old?

Mr. JENKS: You know, to be honest, when I was there I
didn't really, nor do I now, kind of think about what I'll
be like when I'm old or what I'll do when I'm in their
shoes. If anything, I just sort of broke down that
barrier
of looking at them as old people or senior citizens. And
they just became less about a movie about old people than
it did a movie about, you know, about people that I've met
and became friends with and they all had different
personalities and enjoyed doing different things.

BOYD: When you would ask them about death and dying, did
you sense that they were reluctant to talk about it, or
maybe grateful that you were willing to bring it out the
in
the open?

Mr. JENKS: I don't think it fazed them. I don't think it
scared them at all. I think they were ready if the time
were to come and that was just sort of a question that,
you
know, you kind of--I had to get off my shoulders fairly
quickly because, you know, it--at 19 and now it's just
sort
of--at that age, you've got to be thinking about that,
right?

Aren't you scared of that, it could happen at any day?
And
a lot of them were ready, they said, 'Hey if it happens
tomorrow, it happens tomorrow. That's the time to go.'

BOYD: Did it freak me out at all that someone could die?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, absolutely. But at the same token, you
don't really, you know, live there and kind of sit around
and think, 'Oh, this could be her last day.' You know,
everyone is living life and that's not really something
that you kind of would really sit around and think about.

BOYD: What--how did you come back with all the tape that
you had shot and start to put the film together? I would
imagine there are some threads that you ended up dropping
and some that you really picked up and sort of wished you
had even more?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, we probably didn't do it the most
conventional way or maybe even the best way. What we
really did was we went back, we had about 200 hours of
footage and we remembered certain moments that really
stuck
out and kind of put those pieces together and figured out
if they would really play well in the movie.

And then we watched all the footage and just took out
moments that we felt best represented our time there and
the characters that we had come to know. But there was
plenty of residents that we had met that we'd become good
friends with that in 90 minutes just couldn't fit. We
could have made a whole nother film about so many of the
other people that we had met that were so different in a
lot of ways.

BOYD: I have to mention there were some times where you
and the other filmmakers had a really profound experience
that you thought, 'This is going to be great,' and then
when you looked at the tape, it didn't play that way.

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, that's certainly case and I think in a
lot of ways, it happens the other way around maybe more,
which is really the great thing about it when you're
looking back on the footage and you maybe were talking to
someone who maybe you became good friends with, you know,
at the end, but you were talking to them day two about,
you
know, the food or something and you totally forgot that
you
were speaking to that character, who you later become
really good friends with.

You know, when you're friends with someone for a long
time,
you sort of start to think, 'Gee, how did I get to know
you
anyway and I wonder what those first moments were like?'
So when you get to document, you know, your experience of
befriending a group of people, you're able to look back on
footage and kind of see how the relationship developed.
And looking back on footage, you kind of see all these
cool
moments that you had forgotten about.

BOYD: Something I was really impressed by, and there are
a
lot of really funny moments in the film, and there must
have been experiences that you and the other guys had that
were sort of like typical young person viewing old person
moments, but there's never ever a moment where it feels
like you're making fun of them. Did you--did you worry
during editing that something would come across that way
regardless of the respect that you actually personally had
for the residents?

Mr. JENKS: You know, I'm happy to hear that. I think
that
in a lot of ways we became so close with them and such
good
friends with them that we were able to make fun of them
all
the time and then they could make fun of us also. I think
we wanted--I don't know if we really took the approach of
being careful.

I think we were almost like kind of inherently careful
because we always had a respect for the residents there
and
it never really crossed our minds that we would do
something that would be, you know, kind of poking fun at
them but rather than kind of with them.

And you know, by the end, they were able to make--like you
said, Bill, who says, you know, 'You guys are sleeping all
day,' and we would point out different things about them.
I guess it is a fine line to kind of walk across, but I'm
happy that it doesn't come across that way.

BOYD: What do you think it takes to be ready to die?

Mr. JENKS: What do I think it takes? I think--I don't
really think that I would be the best person to really
answer that. Probably those residents there would. I
think that maybe a lot of them were so secure with who
they
were and really understood who they were as people and
where they were in life and had learned from their
experiences and knew their friends and family and really
had come to grips with--like they had a good handle on
their life and where they were. And maybe that helps.
Maybe that helps.

BOYD: You know, it's a relatively recent thing in human
history certainly, but in American history that the
elderly
are separated and very often live apart from the general
community. What do you think we lose in that?

Mr. JENKS: I think, if anything, you just sort of forget
that your grandmother or grandfather are just so unique
and
funny and interesting, maybe you sort of lose sight of
those really positive and energetic qualities that senior
citizens really, really provide. And even just looking at
them as elderly is sort of--is, I don't want to say
offensive, but there's so much more than they can provide
that we sort of tend to forget about.

BOYD: The other thing, and you've talked about it a
little
bit, that sort of falls away is your need to be on your
best behavior around these people, and you asked them
about
things like sex that, you know, it wouldn't be easy, I
would imagine, for you to ask, you know, of someone your
parents' age about. Was it surprising in the same way for
you to hear them answering you pretty honestly?

Mr. JENKS: It was at first. We just sort of threw it out
there, 'What do you think about sex?' I think was the
question that we had written and asked each resident.
They
all--like I said, they all answered very honestly in a way
I have nothing to lose and it was sort of part of that
generation--we kind of needed to break that barrier down
and--for a group of friends to not talk about, you know
the
birds--the guys and girls and that sort of thing is
unrealistic.

We were friends and, you know, when a woman walked by and
I
was sitting with Bill, he'd go, 'Hey, she's on the second
floor around the corner.' And I'd go, 'OK, Bill.' Bill
and I sort of talked about that sort of thing. Obviously
it was always Bill oriented, but there was--there
was--there was kind of a lot of that--a lot of talk about
sex and who was hooking up with who, not that it happened
a
whole lot, but they didn't look past that.

BOYD: Hooking up, I guess, took a different dimension
than
it does when you're living in a college dorm.

Mr. JENKS: Hooking up would be like holding hands,
probably, in an assisted living facility.

BOYD: Yeah, there was one guy--it was great--the one that
you mentioned earlier and they had sort of fallen in love
in the dining room or whatever and he said, 'Well, 20
years
ago it would have been different.' Twenty years ago he
was
70.

Mr. JENKS: That's exactly right, he was 70. And I
thought
about that looking back on the footage, I said, 'You know,
20 years ago, I think he probably meant like 40 years ago
or something, but yeah.'

December 05, 2007

Back from Dallas

Dallas was great--an amazing screening! Very nice people and great food...

We did an interview with NPR--of which I have the transcript.

Or listen to the full length podcast at:

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_detail.php?siteId=5183228

KRYS BOYD, host:

You're listening to THINK on KERA 90.1, I'm Krys Boyd.

How do you imagine you'll spend the final years of your
life? Many young people don't really think about it
unless
they're faced with caring for an elderly loved one.
Andrew
Jenks is an exception. In an effort to really understand
the experience of people in assisted living, Jenks
convinced two of his friends to help him make a
documentary
about residents of Florida's Harbor Place Community.

Such facilities have been captured on video before of
course, but Jenks and his crew went a step further by
actually moving into the facility for more than a month,
sharing meals, entertainment, joys and sorrows with the
residents. But what made Jenks so remarkable was that
what
he didn't have in common with Harbor Place's permanent
residents because when he made the film, he was a healthy,
active 19-year-old just wrapping up his freshman year in
college.

The film that documents the experience is called "Andrew
Jenks, Room 335." You can see it tonight at six at the
Angelica Theater Center in Dallas. Filmmaker Andrew Jenks
will attend that screening and he joins us now to talk
about the project.

Andrew, welcome to THINK.

Mr. ANDREW JENKS (Filmmaker): Thanks a lot for having me.

BOYD: Where did you get the idea for this?

Mr. JENKS: Well, there was a couple different factors. I
had a granddad--a grandfather who I was very close with
who
I spent a lot of time with and I was with him during my
freshman year, I spent some time with him and he quickly
got some bad dementia and sort of fell very badly very
quickly and he was in assisted care.

And this guy who I had known for so long who was this
great
tennis player and inventor, worked for GE for 40 years,
all
of a sudden couldn't remember my name. So, I started to
kind of think about the other side of the spectrum and
then
while this was happening, I was also living in a freshmen
dormitory with 300 18-year-olds, so I kind of put two and
two together and thought, 'I wonder what it would be like
if you put 300 80-year-olds together and what their life
must be like.'

BOYD: What did it take to get a facility to consider
letting you in for something like this?

Mr. JENKS: Well, I think we were honest from the get-go.
We didn't try and kind of scoot around what we were doing.
We wanted to document the experience of living there for
the residents, and so it took, as you'll see in the movie,
it took a while to get one of the assisted living
facilities to comply and agree to what we were trying to
do. We called at least 30 to 40, and then eventually one
was on board.

BOYD: And then you started out after a while you would
call them and say, 'Do you have an age restriction?' Was
that the first sort of roadblock that they would throw up
for you?

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, we first approached it just as if I was
without the idea of a movie and cameras, so it was first
just asking, 'Hey, if a 19-year-old wanted to move in,
would you let that happen? Is there an age restriction?'
And surprisingly, a lot of them said, 'If you're not older
than 65, we don't accept you.' So that immediately
discounted a lot of places.

BOYD: And you paid your way, or was it a case where the
facility said, 'OK, you can stay here while you make the
film?'

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, we didn't have any movie, we were
college
students, so we needed a room to stay in, so they gave us
a
room that they had vacant at the time. We were only
there--well, we were there for about five or six weeks, so
they let us stay there while we were living there.

BOYD: There's noticeably little footage of the staff.
Was
that part of the deal you worked with them, that the film
was really about the residents as opposed to the way they
were handled with staff?

Mr. JENKS: No, not at all. We just--that's kind of how
our experienced turned out. We got to know a lot of the
residents. The residents were the ones that, you know,
lived there and eat there, play BINGO, got out on the
trips, so they were the ones that really spent most of the
time. But we knew the staff, but we just didn't interact
with them as much.

BOYD: How comfortable were you around older people when
you went into the project?

Mr. JENKS: I'd say just as comfortable as any other
average 19-year-old. I think probably going into it, I
talked to my grandparents a little bit differently, you
know, you kind of put up a little bit of a guard when you
speak to them, you try and be a little bit more proper,
whereas now, you know, coming back and speaking with my
grandparents, I'm a little bit more myself. And not just
my grandparents, any senior citizen, I say, 'Yo, what's
up?
What's going on?' just like I would with any other of my
friends.

BOYD: What did it take for you to win the trust of the
residents there?

Mr. JENKS: Well, I think there's a certain point when we
realize that these were people and they weren't residents
or senior citizens or old people, they were people. And
we
started to develop really authentic relationships with a
lot of them and just like any time you befriend someone,
there's a trust level that augments as time goes on and
that's--that was the case while we were at this assisted
living facility.

BOYD: One of the residents at one point in the film
refers
to you as the boy that sleeps all day. I'm wondering
about
this sort of--what it took to adjust to the kind of bio
rhythms of people who were, you know, 60 years older than
you are.

Mr. JENKS: Sure. Well, I think a part of--a big part of
the movie, which hopefully comes out, in our experience
also was that we were ourselves, we weren't trying to be
someone else, someone different. I mean I wasn't. And
so,
you know, we didn't always wake up at 6 AM for the early
morning breakfast.

And you're talking about Bill, who would always bother us
that we woke up an hour too late and that was because, you
know, we were up probably way later than anyone else was.

There's a funny story where I was once called into the
general manager--or the manager's office of this facility
and she was very serious and I thought I was in trouble
for
something, and she said, 'Andrew, you know, there's been a
lot of complaints about you,' and I got really nervous and
I thought we were going to get kicked out or something.

And I said, 'Yeah, what's wrong?' And she said, 'Well,
you
know, when we're in the dining facility, you have to wear
pants and there's been a lot of complaints over the past
two days that you're wearing shorts and if you want to be
a
resident here, you have to wear pants.' And so, I think
that was cool. They wanted me to be a resident and I had
to follow the rules.

BOYD: Were you--there was definitely times when there
seems like there were certain rituals and ways of doing
things that became really important to these people, who
were, for the most part, spending most of their time
within
this facility. Did you start to understand why those were
so important?

Mr. JENKS: Why their rituals or how they went about doing
things?

BOYD: What the comfort was in the rituals or why they
seem
more important to the residents there than they might be
to
younger people or people sort of out in the world?

Mr. JENKS: I think that--I'm not sure if I'm answering
your question, but I think that there's a high level
of--they really want to kind of maintain their
independence
and they want to make sure that everyone else knows that
they're living their lives and that they have things to
do.

So for instance, there's residents who at 7:00 would take
a
walk just around the facility or make sure they'd watch
"Larry King Live" at 9:00, or make sure that they played
BINGO every day at five. They wanted these sort of
certain
things to do at different points during the day just like
we all do at a job or with family.

BOYD: Yeah, that's interesting because you really get the
sense that they structure their lives in some ways. They
were all retired, but they structure their lives in a way
that is reflective of what they were probably like before.
They have certain times to be places and certain things
that they're born to do and people they meet at
particular--for a particular occasion.

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, exactly. They all like to plan their
days. Of course, there was a board out in the front lobby
which said what activities were going on that day and--so
there was definitely a high level of interest from all the
residents to maintain activity.

BOYD: You asked them some really piercing questions, were
you surprised at how frank they were willing to be with
you?

Mr. JENKS: I think I was surprised, but then as time went
on we realized that, you know, in a lot of ways they had
nothing to lose. They wanted to show who they were and,
you know, they don't really get a chance to talk a lot
about themselves to other people. And I think they were
just happy to have us around and have these young guys
asking them questions about who they were and, you know,
who they were in the past and what they'd be in the
future.

(Sound Bite of "Andrew Jenks, Room 335")

BOYD: That was Tammy, one of the residents that you got
to
know pretty well. And, you know, I'm struck by--and this
happens with her throughout the film--she's just revealed
something to you that is not easy to talk about and
instantly she jumps into being funny, which is something
she does really well. And a lot of these folks are just
wickedly funny.

Mr. JENKS: Yeah, they're all funny in their different
ways
too, and I think they all had different kind of coping
mechanisms or ways to deal with their past and in this
case
Tammy losing all of her family and friends. And I think
she started to go down that path and think about it and
that was her way of kind of dealing with things was
telling
a joke and making sure that she got everyone to laugh and
everyone to kind of perk up.

BOYD: Do you think that was her way of dealing with it
for
her benefit or for yours?

Mr. JENKS: I think in a lot of ways for other people just
as much as for herself. Tammy physically wasn't able to
do
a whole lot, she had to sort of roll around in a
wheelchair
quite a bit, she couldn't lay flatly when she went to
sleep, and she had an incredible ability to kind of roll
around in her wheelchair and go from one gloomy table to
the next and just tell a joke.

And by the time she left, everyone was laughing, everyone
was smiling. And I think in a lot of ways she kind of
took
it upon herself to kind of put a little bit of a punch
into
that place and kind of cheer everyone up a little bit,
which she certainly did.

BOYD: You know it's really interesting, you talked about
a
college dorm where you have hundreds of 18-year-olds
living
all together and we all know what the social climate is
like there. And the difference there is that most of
those
people haven't grown up together. And it's the same
thing,
I would imagine, in a retirement home where people have
age
in common, but they don't have a shared past. Do they
spend much time talking to each other about what their
lives were like or do they tend to focus on the here and
now?

Mr. JENKS: What I found really interesting was that
almost
all of the residents there hardly ever talked about their
past. Of course, there's always an element of dementia
with some of the residents to be fair, but I think that
was
one of the more extraordinary parts and something that we
sort of cover in the film in that we never do talk about
their pasts.

The characters that we really get to know and become, I
guess you'd say, main characters in the documentary, we
never really explain who they were in the past and what
they had done because that's not something that we really
covered. They had to focus on who they were that day and
what they'd been trying to do tomorrow, and I found that
to
be very interesting.

BOYD: Did it give you thought--did you start thinking in
different ways about your own life would be and how you
would look back on what your past was?

Mr. JENKS: In a lot of ways, not to sound too trite, but
in a lot of ways I think so. They had an incredible
ability to focus on the moment and even though their
friends and family had left or sometimes abandoned them
and
they were by themselves in this assisted living facility
with these big wall surrounding them, in a lot of ways
they
were kind of separate from, you know, society, kind of put
away in a way. It didn't impact them. They were able to
focus on the moment and become friends with different, you
know, the people they were living with.

BOYD: Filmmaker Andrew Jenks is my guest. His film
"Andrew Jenks, Room 335" will screen tonight at the
Angelica Film Center in Dallas.

December 04, 2007

Dallas Screening!

Hi All!

We're back and really excited. We'll soon give you the exact time, date, and channel to sit down and watch 'Andrew Jenks, Room 335' on TV. It's coming quick so stay tuned.

In the meantime, we're doing a special screening in Dallas tonight at Angelica Theater. There is a few seats still left so make sure you make it to Texas. The weather here is perfect.

DVD's of the film should be available within the next three weeks. You'll be able to buy them straight from our website.

I'll post some pictures of Texas, and my adventures in Sydney, soon.

Till then,

Andrew