Andrew Jenks, Room 335
Empty7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15
Andrew Jenks, a 19-year-old student filmmaker in 2005, had an idea that was both profound and naive about how to spend his summer vacation. He thought he would make a film about what it was like to become a resident in an assisted-living facility for about five weeks. After being turned down at several, he got a room at the Harbor Place, a posh, beachside facility outside of Port St. Lucie, Fla.
"I could learn from old people," Jenks tells the camera. Over the course of his stay, Jenks learns more about old people than from them. He learns that many of the Harbor Place residents are spirited, social and eager to help others, at least as far as their own physical limitations permit.
In very little time, Jenks forms attachments to a half-dozen of them, making the documentary as much a collage of individual character portraits as a statement about the needs and wants of seniors.
Most unforgettable is Tammy, nearly 96, who is witty and reflective. She jokes that her pills are for birth control and blesses each new morning. But she also feels the pain that comes from outliving everyone who has been close to her. "I don't know if it's a blessing to live this long," she opines.
Almost nothing is said about staff or family visits. The financial aspect of aging is ignored entirely, which might be just as well, because for most families a room at Harbor Place would probably be a budget-buster. Still, there's something warm and endearing about many of the residents, and once you meet them, it's hard to forget them.