June 4, 2021

Seniors’ Week: Creating connections

This week’s celebration lets us show appreciation for older adults and their vital contributions that enrich our community
THIRD ACTion Film Festival
Part of Seniors' Week is the THIRD ACTion Film Festival

The challenges facing seniors in their “third act” of life is the focus of a virtual film festival that is a highlight of Alberta’s annual celebration of older adults.

From June 7 to 13, Seniors’ Week is rolling out across Alberta with scores of virtual programs, celebrations and activities aimed at older adults. Underscoring the rich roster are numerous opportunities reinforcing this year’s theme that emphasizes the importance of forging connections with seniors in our community. Attempting to rewrite the script on aging, the week aims to tackle many of the challenges — from housing issues and loneliness to mobility access — that face seniors, while also offering entertaining cultural events.

The THIRD ACTion Film Festival, running June 11 to 13, is a prime example. What was first held at the Glenbow Museum in 2018 will be virtual this year, with an expanded menu of nine screenings of 22 films, says executive director Mitzi Murray, who spent close to six months screening more than 200 films from around the world to prepare this year’s event.

For $12.50 a ticket (one ticket can be used for your entire bubble), you can see shorts (don’t miss The Long Today about a 70-year-old on a burly whitewater canoe trip), documentaries (two flat-out charmers are the Greek doc, When Tomatoes Met Wagner, and the French-Canadian film, The Paper Man) or some of its marquee productions such as One Careful Owner and Vera.

Many of the screenings will be followed by informative discussions with experts from what’s been dubbed the Reel Research Speaker Series. This series is being sponsored by the University of Calgary Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging, and four of these subject-matter experts share UCalgary connections as they’re researchers, physicians and professors from various faculties as well as the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

There’s Dr. Patricia Doyle-Baker, PH/PhD, a professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology who self-describes as a “health conversationalist with a sporty leadership style.” Also featured is Dr. Yeonjung Lee, PhD, a social gerontologist and associate professor of social work, whose current research explores the perceptions of accessibility to social, physical and community resources among older adults living in Calgary.

From the Faculty of Nursing is Dr. Lorraine Venturato, PhD, who uses participatory and arts-based research approaches to further her current research project, which is exploring the lives and homes of older people across Alberta and the N.W.T. Also from Nursing is Navjot Virk, BN’11, MN’15, a registered nurse who has worked in gerontological nursing for the last 10 years and is the Research & Innovative Practice Manager with the Brenda Strafford Foundation. Currently, Virk is taking her nursing PhD, examining health-care innovation and system-level changes.

Why is film so relevant when thinking about the third act of life?

“We need to offer an entertaining and educational experience that redefines the narrative around aging,” points out Murray, explaining that older adults are under-represented and misrepresented in mass media.

I hope these films, and all of Seniors’ Week, help to cultivate a positive mindset and to create what we desperately need right now . . . and that is some optimism and resiliency around aging.

Symbolic annihilation is a term used to describe the absence of representation of a group and the impact that has on all of the community. When seniors do not see themselves represented in the media, they start to believe they don’t matter, says Murray.

Nothing could be further from the truth — as evidenced not only by the spotlight Seniors’ Week shines on this year’s lineup of films, but also in other events scheduled during the week.

This includes a virtual art show; Eldersong; video tours of spots around the province; a two-act play; a webinar with celebrity chef Julie Van Rosendaal; and savings at attractions such as the Calgary Zoo and Heritage Park. For a complete listing, visit Seniors’ Week.  

If there’s ever been a year where seniors deserve to be treated with more dignity, compassion, interest and respect — 2021 is it!