Carole Blueweiss

A Short Film Tells a Tall Story

I went to watch a short documentary at the JCC in New York’s Upper West side last week. The movie was called Below Surface. This short film showed it’s viewers the importance of social and active engagement, not only for older people, but for all people who grow older, which if all goes well we all will continue to do. The film focused on an aqua fitness class and the people were asked to speak about their experiences with the class, both instructors and the athletes. Most of the people were in their 7th, 8th or 9th decade. Their interviews were fascinating. Each one spoke about how the class itself, the community of people and the commitment to show up, helped keep them not only physically fit, but vital and emotionally fit as well. Without lecturing about how mind and body are one, this film shows this indistinguishable reality of how we are wired.

Experts on the panel afterwards included Linda Fried, the dean at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health; Kathleen Turner, the actress, who in her 70’s has embarked on a new career; the producers of the film and to top it off, Sheila Nevins, of HBO Documentary fame, moderated.

Watching the film and then discussing it afterwards with the one common theme of an exercise class, brought to light how a simple film, with nothing fancy about it, can make a large impression and show what most of us don’t realize- aging takes proactive engagement, its worth it, loneliness kills, and being around like minded people is a powerful pill. Some of the keys to longevity are: keep moving, find friends, and find a community. Just going to a fun fitness class regularly checks off all these boxes. It takes a village and we need more programs to encourage social intergenerational engagement.