Aging can be an uncomfortable topic, which is what attracted award-winning producers Jedd and Todd Wider to director Sari Gilman’s project about the emotional ups and downs of a group of seniors living in a retirement community in Florida.
In “Kings Point,” the 30-minute film playing Saturday and Sunday at the AFI Silver Theatre’s 10th annual Silverdocs Documentary Festival in downtown Silver Spring, Gilman explores how five elderly residents navigate the challenging proposition of new friendships and new romances as they grow older.
They share the tension of finding ways to feel connected despite knowing their counterparts won’t be around for much longer.
“I think it’s an area that’s largely ignored,” said Todd Wider. “And it’s critical. These notions we all have as younger people, the search for friendship, the need for love, are issues that are constants. They are always there.”
Gilman was inspired to create the film based on her time at Kings Point visiting her grandmother, where she saw the daily interactions of older couples, widows and widowers who strived to maintain their independence while holding on to a sense of community.
In the film, she asks one resident if she thinks it is possible to fall in love again.
After the film debuted at the Florida Film Festival, a senior told Gilman no one had ever asked her that question.
“There’s been lots of gratitude from people who feel that they’re getting to the point where they’re kind of invisible,” Gilman said. “I just felt that they needed a voice. I was interested in learning about their internal landscape and their emotional landscape. It’s going to happen to all of us eventually.”
As the post-World War II baby boom generation ages and people live longer, Anne Basting, executive director of the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin’s Center on Age & Community, said the issues in the film are going to become more visible.
She cited studies that predict one in five people nationwide will be over the age of 65 by 2030.
The Maryland Department of Planning projected that between 2000 and 2020, Montgomery County’s population of seniors age 60 and older will increase by 74 percent.
“We’ve known this was coming since the baby boom generation was born and yet we’re still surprised by it and we’re just now starting to wrestle with what it means,” said Basting, who served as a consultant on the film. “I think the movie really kind of lifts the veil off of our denial. We need to understand how they’re feeling and how aging was or wasn’t what they were expecting.”
Gilman started shooting the film in 2002, and visited the community periodically. She dedicated it to her grandmother, Ida Gilman, who died about a year and a half ago. But it’s a story Jedd Wider said translates to retirement communities across the country.
“People by nature want to connect. But does anyone consider their grandparents having sex? We’re kind of taught to joke about it and step away from it,” Jedd Wider said. “I think the reason we’re not comfortable discussing it is because it reminds us that we’re mortal.”