This multimedia online documentary is an essay on the ecstasies and agonies of longevity, researched and composed by photojournalist, Ed Kashi and reporter, Julie Winokur. The site consists of written and audio commentaries and a number of short slide shows. The documentary is divided into six segments, each of which is a complete "essay" in itself: Introduction: Julie Winokur on aging; Part 1, Youth in age: The spirited side of longevity; Part 2, Sentenced to life: Growing old behind bars; Part 3, Helping hands: New solutions for elder care; Part 4, Vanishing heritage: Tribal elders face modern times; and Part 5, Surviving death: Losing a mate with dignity.


This is an award-winning, marvelous compendium that examines contemporary social realities of aging in America and documents, among other things, innovative solutions to long-term care in home and institutional settings. The site provides a wealth of curricular material for education and research.

"Youth in age" exposes myths of aging (never too old to exercise or dance, or hit the burlesque stage); seasoned (physical) beauties, motorcycling "retreads," and "mature" singles with wanderlust, challenging us to appreciate older bodies and their owners.

"Helping hands" "reinvents community and care" showing ways frail elderly can and are being kept out of nursing homes. Traditional families are extended in novel ways, as individuals are placed in foster homes and with caregiver networks in retirement communities. The book, Borders of Time: Life in a Nursing Home, captures similar give-and-take snapshots of strangers caring for strangers and meaningful caring relationships in a nursing home setting (see this database).

"Sentenced to life" is sobering, with graphic images of younger inmates caring for older disabled ones, of prison guards hovering in a doorway waiting for a dying cancer patient to expire, and of an inmate changing his own diaper in a geriatric ward where there is little if any privacy. The precarious line between voyeurism and showing respect for one's subject is openly dealt with in audio commentary by the photojournalist. See also, Cortney Davis's poem, "What the Nurse Likes" which acknowledges the awkwardness, shock, grace, opportunity and privilege of witnessing such private and intimate moments (see The Body Flute, in this database).

"Vanishing heritage" is about the struggle of a last surviving generation of elders at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to live in the tribe's traditional ways. These images of a decimated community largely dependent on federal assistance, of family devotion, alcoholism, and lack of respect for elders speak volumes.

The final slide show, "A gentle parting" records the last two weeks in the life of an Alzheimer's patient who undergoes surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. His wife, a retired nurse, keeps vigil on a cot in his hospital room. It's as much her story as his. She tells of feeling invisible and ignored by the doctors who, despite her medical training, speak to her daughters instead.

The three final images--of the widow who "doesn't remember a time when she wasn't married," bringing her husband's ashes from the mortuary (in a taxi) to the church for the funeral service, removing possessions from their apartment (for economical reasons she now must move into a smaller place), and seated in a crowded train contemplating facing life on her own--capture the subtle emotional and practical complexities of rebuilding a life. Emily Dickinson's poems, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes", and "Pain has an element of blank" articulate these often unacknowledged aspects of grieving (see this database) and would make excellent companion pieces for these three images


This documentary won the National Press Club award for best online journalism (2002) and the National Media Award from the American Society on Aging (2002). In addition, individual sections also won several awards.

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