Why would two young filmmakers be interested in the topic of aging in
America? For Aaron Naar, the reason was personal. Seth Cuddeback was
inspired for a different reason.
Naar and Cuddeback are recent graduates from the film school at Vassar College, a small liberal arts institution in New York.
They are the co-producers of a new dramatic film called Fades with Age, which Naar says explores the issue of aging in America.
"Fades with Age is a short, 23-minute fiction narrative film about an elderly man in New York City who's trying to reconnect with his son and grandson in an increasingly fast-paced world," Naar says. "And it's basically a critique of the marginalization of the elderly in a business-oriented America."
Naar says he wanted to make Fades with Age because, for him, the issue of aging in America is personal.
"I wanted to make Fades with Age because my grandparents' generation actually, unfortunately, died off this year, and it was pretty alarming and unfortunate to see how little health care and aid and support there was among many of these elderly communities that they're involved in..." he explains.
Naar says that it isn't just a lack of social services that causes the elderly to suffer. He says many of them feel isolated even within the circle of their own families. That, he says, is the sentiment he tries to convey in his film, which follows a day in the life of an elderly man named Roger and the encounters he has with his family and society at large.
Cuddeback, writer and co-director of Fades With Age, says his reason for making the film was to present a view of the senior population that isn't typically portrayed in American films.
"I wanted to write something and make something that showed more accurately what the aging process might be like for somebody in America today," Cuddeback says.
An example of that comes in a scene where Roger, needing to make an important phone call, approaches the reception desk in an office building, where a young receptionist - wearing ear buds and enjoying his music - is indifferent to the old man's pleas.
Cuddeback says that scene is, unfortunately, a fairly typical example of how elderly people are often ignored by society. But what really hurts, he says, is how they're ignored by their own families.
"Even though we see him interacting with his son and his grandson, you know, family members who love him, but in sort of a different way, they're sort of each involved in their own lives to an extent that they never, ever, think about this person," Cuddeback says.
As the film develops, we learn that while Roger's family may not always understand him, his best friend, Janet, does.
"Throughout the day, we see him interact with a lot of people, but none of them are people that he really connects with until this moment that he shows up at his friend's house, somebody who he's known for years, somebody that he shares a connection with personally and generationally," Cuddeback says.
Janet, says Cuddeback, is the only person Roger feels can commiserate with him about his isolation and his loneliness.
During one scene from the film, Roger and Janet have just finished dinner and are relaxing in her living room when Roger asks Janet if she ever wonders where they're at.
"Sure, Roger, all the time," Janet replies.
Cuddeback says most Americans are preoccupied with life in some form or another, which prevents many of them from connecting in a meaningful way with the elderly people in their lives. That, he says, is what needs to change.
"Our culture is very individualistic in a lot of senses, and, sort of, we all have this one specific thing that we want for ourselves, and oftentimes that comes at the expense of others," he says.
Naar and Cuddeback hope their movie will help younger generations see the elderly in a more compassionate light and maybe even inspire them to put away that Blackberry, just for a few minutes, when Grandpa is visiting.