Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Room 335" Assisted Living Documentary

At Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, TN, on April 7, 2008, the Dean of Students will sponsor a public showing of the documentary Andrew Jenks: Room 335, according to a press release, "Cinemax documentary on assisted living centers to be screened at Vanderbilt", issued March 21, 2008.

A Cinemax documentary on assisted living centers will be screened at Vanderbilt University. The event is free and the public is invited.

Andrew Jenks: Room 335 is the result of a summer spent by 19-year-old filmmaker Jenks living in a Florida assisted living center as cameras rolled. He played bingo, watched Jeopardy and generally bonded with the other residents.

In a 2004 study done by the
Harvard School of Public Health, it was reported that a baby boomer turns 60 every seven seconds, which is leading to more of our population living in assisted living centers.

The documentary asks the question of whether this is the best way to treat our older citizens.

“The final scenes of the picture witness Jenks departing with a first-hand, heightened knowledge of the elderly and a grave sadness at the thought of leaving his friends behind – as well as concern over their collective physical deterioration,” said
The New York Times. * * *
Congregate living for college students versus senior citizens often results in dormitory life for the youths, but assisted living for the elders.

What observations would be made by a collegian who transfers his living arrangement from a dorm room into a nursing home room?

This documentary film, released in 2006, provided one perspective -- that of 19-year old Andrew Jenks, who transferred into Room 335 at the Harbor Place senior residence, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, for a summer.

Just like the other residents at the assisted living facility Harbor Place, I played bingo, hung out in the courtyards contemplating “the golden years”, and even helped fellow neighbors change their oxygen tanks.

However, unlike Tammy (age 95) or even Bill (age 80), I am only nineteen years old. * * *

For one summer I did all of the things that old people do. I wanted to find the answer to the question: how do they feel now that they face the end of their lives?

I laughed at their jokes about sex, played baseball with canes instead of bats, and raced through the hallways in my friend’s wheelchair.

By the fourth week, three of my closest friends were hospitalized and my best chum, Bill, stopped talking to me. I coaxed my neighbor through a heart attack, saw the heartbreak of dementia, and witnessed the death of a friend.

By the end of the summer, I had formed unimaginable bonds with some of the greatest, and oldest, people that life has to offer. I came to realize that it is in such friendships and the spirit in which you live that meaning is to be found.

My two good college buddies followed this journey and recorded over 200 hours of footage, creating “Andrew Jenks, Room 335”.

The film was reviewed favorably by some publications, such as Variety, which said: "The raw humanity that it uncovers -- running life's roller-coaster ride that ranges from laughter to poignancy to grief."

At film festivals in 2006, the documentary received awards. It was televised on HBO, and remains available for screening at events, upon request, such as the upcoming showing at Vanderbilt University.

Learn more about the film on its website, which offers photos, a "trailer" with the film's scenes, and credits. The producers also continue to maintain a blog about developments.

The subject of this documentary is important, as noted on the film's blog, which posted a quote:
"This century, the world is expected to experience an unprecedented aging of the human population in countries worldwide. . . .
Demographers predict that by mid-century, people age 65 and over will compose about 15 percent of the world’s population, up from about seven percent today."

-Voice Of America