The local premiere of “The Age of Love” —a new documentary about our search for love when we’re older—will be among the marquee events of the 5th Annual Celebrating Seniors Week from May 14-21 in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.
Spurred by his own family’s journey, New York-based documentary filmmaker Steven Loring began work on the film in 2011. The documentary chronicles the humorous and poignant adventures of 30 older adults who sign up for a first-of-its-kind Speed Dating event for the 70-plus set.
Breaking stereotypes and linking generations, the film takes a much-needed step in redefining the true hearts and desires of our booming senior population.
“The Age of Love” is one of dozens of educational and/or entertaining events that fill Celebrating Seniors Week’s calendar. A free screening of the film will be on Thursday, May 14th from 3 to 5 p.m. at Concordia University’s Christopher Center (Room 251).
Afterwards, people interested in trying it out themselves may sign up for a senior-focused speed dating event modeled on the film. This first-in-the-area event, organized by Celebrating Seniors, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20th, at Skrine Chops, 7230 Madison St. in Forest Park.
Jim Flanagan, chairman of the Oak Park/River Forest Township Senior Services Committee and founder of Celebrating Seniors, said the speed-dating phenomenon has been a huge hit among seniors when it has been organized elsewhere.
“In the south suburbs, senior speed dating events are drawing big crowds,” said Flanagan. “Seniors are coming out not to learn about township services but to find out when the next speed dating event is being held.”
We recently caught up with Loring to learn more about this documentary, its origins and his hopes for the impact it will have on others. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
Q: Your movie has received great reviews and seems to really have struck a chord with people. Why do you think that is?
A: 65-and-older is America’s fastest-growing demographic. We have a new ‘fourth generation’ of active, healthy people between 70 and 100, and, to a large extent, we still think about them in the same way we thought about our grandparents. We need to define this generation not in terms of decline, but in terms of growth and potential and what they still want out of life.
Q: What has been the most gratifying part of this process for you?
A: For a filmmaker, making a documentary is a long, personal, and expensive process, and there’s no guarantee the film will resonate once it gets out there. To have people say, ‘I haven’t seen anything like this before’—that’s like finding the pot of gold in the documentary world.
Q: How has the making of the documentary changed you?
A: I’m not unlike other people. I came to the topic with my own assumptions and prejudices and stereotypes about aging—my own fears, anticipating what life might have in store.
But becoming so involved with older adults and seeing how much energy and hope and potential does exist in that generation was eye-opening to me. I‘ve probably become a lot less fearful, and I have more understanding of what aging is about: You don’t have to conform to stereotypes. You can choose your own course at any time in life. You find your own happiness.
Q: What was your intent going into the making of the documentary and what are your goals now?
A: My intent going in was to find guides into the hearts of our older generation. My dad had just passed away and my mom was alone for the first time in her life. My 78-year-old uncle, who had never been married, suddenly met a women and fell in love. I was surrounded by people I cared about who were dealing with issues of the heart at a time in life when we don’t really think about people searching for love at all.
So I went off exploring, trying to find out: Is there anything fundamental about love or the need for love that changes at different stages of life? And, like any personal passion project, it was a journey of self-discovery.
Q: Was there a moment when you realized that you had something special here?
A: I was looking to find a way into the topic and learned about a speed-dating event for seniors. Then, in order to be able to get the film made, I needed permission from all 30 speed daters to film them, and I was afraid it would never happen.
I assumed older people looking for love wouldn’t in a million years want their faces up on movie screens across the country. I thought they’d be embarrassed by it—that they probably hadn’t even told their children.
But there’s a moment in any creative project when you know you’re on to something—and, when every one of them agreed to appear in the documentary, that was one of those moments. These people were really thrilled to be able to express themselves, not to be invisible.
Q: Where are you at with love?
A: I’m not married yet. And I have no doubt that some element of this story—as much as it was about my mom and my uncle and the older people I met—it has to be about me, or I wouldn’t have been as excited to spend years making it.
As we get older, we lose families and we create new ones. Being a Baby Boomer and not having created a family yet myself, there’s a lot of questions in my own heart about what’s ahead.
Q: What do you hope people take away from the film?
A: There are different things for different people. People who are 65 and over will, I hope, feel empowered by the message. Baby Boomers like myself will look at it and think, ‘What lies ahead for me?’ Teens and those in their 20s—many have told me they’ll never look at their grandparents the same way again.
To learn more about “The Age of Love” or to see the documentary trailer, please visit TheAgeofLoveMovie.com.
To learn more about Celebrating Seniors, please visit www.celebratingseniors.net.