Aging Through the Lens

Below is a list of documentaries that chronicle the highs and lows of aging with a good dose of humour, lots of creativity and bravado. (These brief descriptions were supplied by the filmmakers.)

The Boomer List (airing on PBS September 23, 2014) United States
This documentary by filmmaker/photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders tells the story of this influential generation through the lives of 19 boomers—one born each year of the baby boom.

Alive Inside (2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award) United States
Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short.

Advanced Style (2014) United States
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging.

The 100+ Club (2012) Australia
Following the lives of three remarkable centenarians – Ruth the athlete, Olive the theatre performer and Dexter the author – who, despite their age, are still fervently chasing their dreams.

Age of Champions (2011) United States
Age of Champions is the award-winning PBS documentary following five competitors who sprint, leap, and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics.

Do you have a favourite documentary on aging? We would love to hear from you.

Active Aging and Life Expectancy

couple - green backgrndStatistics Canada released a new report entitled ‘Ninety Years of Change in Life Expectancy’. According to the report the 2011 Census results revealed that centenarians were the second fastest growing age group. With an increase of 24.6 years since 1921, Canadians live an average of 81.7 years.

Female and Male Expectancies

Through the years female Canadians have experienced a longer life span than males. The smallest gap between the sexes was recorded in 1921 at 1.8 years. In 1975-1977 it reached a high of 7.4 years. The latest data (2010-2012) reveals the age gap to be 4.3 years.

According to an article in Time magazine, throughout the industrialized world, women live five to ten years longer than men. The article suggests one of the reasons for this gap is that women typically develop cardiovascular problems in their 70’s which is on average ten years later than men. Research by Scientific American opines that there is no one definitive answer.

Longer Living and Quality of Life

The article explains that although Canadian may be living longer, their functional health1 decline accelerates at age 65. Severe disability2 occurs on average around age 77.

The Statistics Canada, Health at a Glance report concludes by explaining that “another way to look at the quality of life during the later years of life is to calculate the equivalent number of years a person can be expected to live in good (or “full”) health. The latest estimate of health-adjusted life expectancy at birth is 69 years for men and 71 for women. That means that the average Canadian can expect to live roughly 10.5 years with some level of disability.”

Active Aging

The World Health Organization describes active aging as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age”. Active aging can be an effective disease prevention strategy to ideally minimize the predicted average of 10.5 years of poor health.

The Centre for Elder Research creates innovative research opportunities that promote active aging. We also believe in health prevention and promotion across the life span. To be added to our mailing list for research opportunities and, to receive advance notification about upcoming projects and events, please send an email to

1 A person’s functional health is measured using a scoring system based on self-reported performance on eight key health attributes: vision, hearing, speech, mobility, dexterity, feelings, cognition and pain. This scoring system, the Health Utility Index Mark 3 (HUI3), was developed at McMaster University.

2 Severe disability occurs when a person is prevented from performing many activities due to limitations in their ability to function in at least one of these eight health attributes (vision, hearing, speech, mobility, dexterity, feelings, cognition and pain), and the limitation cannot be corrected.

The Path to Long Life and Health?


“The premise of blue zone: If we could find the optimal lifestyle of longevity we could come up with a defacto formula for longevity.” ~ Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner explores the premise of blue zones in his popular Ted Talk How to Live to be 100+. He teamed up with the National Geographic and the National Institute on Aging on a quest to find four demographically confirmed areas whose populations are experiencing higher than usual life expectancy rates.

The four identified Blues Zones are:

  1. Sardinia, Italy
  2. Okinawa, Japan
  3. Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  4. Icaria, Greece

Buettner explains that the capacity of the human body is about 90 years. However, the life expectancy in the United States is about 78 years. Buettner suggests that ‘we have 12 years that we could still get’.

A team of experts was brought in to find out exactly what the individuals aging in the Blue Zones do to stay healthy and live longer. The team was able to identify several common life-style characteristics found in these cultures:

  1. Move Naturally. They set up their lives so they are constantly ‘nudged’ into physical activity. When they do intentional physical activity its things they enjoy. They all tend to have a garden.
  2. Right Outlook. Each culture takes the time to downshift. They all have a vocabulary for a sense of purpose.
  3. Eat Wisely. They all eat a plant-based diet and have strategies to keep from over eating.
  4. Connect. Each culture puts families first by taking care of their children and their aging parents. They all belong to a faith-based community. They actively surround themselves with the right people (individuals who have healthy lifestyles).

When tasked with finding a North American Blue Zone the team identified one in Loma Linda, California. The Blue Zone Foundation has partnered with AARP and the United Health Foundation to build more Blue Zones in the United States. Check out their website to see the progress of a Blue Zone in Minnesota.




Creative Housing Opportunities for Older Adults

As the population of older adults grows, the need for elder-friendly housing and communities that encourage self-reliance and support independence becomes increasingly important. ~ Vital Aging Network

Housing is an important issue for older adults who may be facing financial and health challenges. Creative housing ideas such as home sharing programs are being developed as a way to support aging in place.

The Golden Circle home sharing program in Alberta matches college students with older adults. The program offers the older adults increased security and reduced isolation while the students receive affordable housing. In exchange for low affordable housing the students are expected to assist with 4-10 hours of household chores and errands.

North American agencies such as the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens offer Home Sharing Programs that link older adult ‘hosts’ age 60+, that have extra bedrooms in their homes, who are looking to share expenses, chores or companionship and with ‘guests’. The program is free and professional social workers “thoroughly screen and check the references of all host and guest applicants”. Once a match is made the participants sign an agreement.

The non-profit organization Golden Girl Homes in Minnesota offers shared housing opportunities specifically for older women. For $25 a year individuals who wish to share their homes can join the aptly named Blanche Devereaux Society that allows members to ‘advertise’ their space and join in on group activities.

The United Kingdom based Homeshare International Network encourages “a society in which fewer people live lonely and isolated lives, and where intergenerational solidarity is promoted”. Individuals can check the ‘Programmes Worldwide’ section of their website to find home share matches in 13 countries.

Home sharing may not be a solution for everyone’s housing challenges, but it is an interesting option. Let us know your housing stories.