Judge David Johnson is actually looking forward to growing old so he can be known as the "crazy old man" in whatever town he's living in.
The Baby Boomers are about to retire. How will they answer the question "What's next?"
Is aging in America actually a "slow march to death," or is it in fact a period of life to embrace? That's the question this harmless little documentary seeks to answer. The Open Road: America Looks at Aging, directed by Nina Gilden Seavey, tracks a handful of elderly citizens currently "enjoying" their twilight years.
Interestingly, Seavey tends to focus more on folks already retired than on the so-called Baby Boomers prepping to pack up and head out. I suppose this method was a kind of "here's what's waiting for you guys" approach. Among the interviewed are a woman struggling to make ends meet because of the small beans that is her social security check, another woman seeking employment in retail to stay afloat, a gentleman continuing to work despite his age because he enjoys his job and can't picture not working, a handful of volunteers working in a park, and a varied cross-section of other soon-to-be old-timers. While some of the struggles are certainly highlighted (read: finances, finances, and finances), the overall feel of the film is not doom and gloom. The atmosphere is one of hope and freedom, illustrated by the running theme of a couple heading out in their kick-ass Winnebago.
The 800-pound gorilla is of course the green stuff. The limits of Social Security and fixed-income living are given a solid amount of air time, and the conclusion the film reaches is pretty much that the government checks total exactly diddly-squat for the practical purpose of day-to-day living. But fear not, Seavey stops short of the "third rail of politics" and offers no comments on the current climate of Social Security reform in Washington, despite the fact that it is ostensibly the biggest issue associated with the impending mass retirement of the Boomers. Still, it makes sense for the film to not visit that particular political brouhaha.
That's about all I've got for you for this little documentary. I didn't find it particularly hard-hitting or really that informative. The big revelations? Retired people tend to volunteer, and some still have to work. The strongest aspects of the film are the overall pleasant and positive air that permeates it, and the interesting characters that are spotlighted. Too bad nothing really substantial or practical is revealed or discussed.
Bonuses include a nifty short film about "civic engagement," which encourages retirees to focus on "purposes larger than themselves," in the words of Jim Firman, president of the National Council on the Aging. It's a solid supplement to the feature. The last extra of note is a list of online resources about aging.
You know, taken as a whole—the documentary combined with the informative bonus materials—the disc does offer a decent bang for your buck, providing you wouldn't rather spend it on your grandchildren.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
• Short Film on Community Engagement
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