Told over the course of four seasons and featuring live accompaniment by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Caregivers is a hybrid documentary about grassroots eldercare in the hills of rural Vermont. A powerful meditation on acts of compassion, companionship, and the quest for closure, Kreitzer intends to tour the finished film with live orchestration to rural and medically-underserved communities using a pay-what-you-can ticketing model. Support the ongoing production by making a tax-deductible donation here.
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Isolated, alone, and hidden in the hills, a patchwork of elderly Vermonters insist on living and dying at home. With no children or spouse to look after them, these “orphan elders” can’t leave because the animals are waiting to be fed, the fields don’t seed themselves, and the firewood needs curing before snowfall. Asking for help or money never comes easy, because surely someone else needs it more than they do. They don’t want pity, no helping hand, and certainly no stranger coming in to mess with their business. Besides, things are fine as they are. Determined, stubborn and resilient they may be, but old age is just as tenacious and shows no signs of slowing.
Meanwhile, as their waning bodies battle the elements and contend against time, a grassroots network of volunteer caregivers keep watchful eye on the elders nestled along the backroads and peppered in the hills. For decades, Windham County, Vermont, one of the oldest in the country, has led the way in non-medical, community-driven eldercare. The model is deceptively simple: neighbors look out for neighbors. Unfussy and unsentimental, it’s a duty built on the bare necessities: food, shelter, health, safety, and companionship.
Operating on the frontlines of their own communities, the caregivers are as humble as the elders they serve, attuned to needs of those around them, and affecting change right in their own backyard. In partnership with the Vermont Folklife Center, Senior Solutions, Windham County Cares, and Brattleboro Area Hospice, Caregivers is a powerful tapestry of stories rooted in the cycles of agrarian life. Told over the course of four seasons and featuring live accompaniment by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the film addresses the needs of an aging population, and honors those who are not afraid to look the other way.
In 2017, I relocated to my hometown of Marlboro, Vermont to produce Caregivers, a feature-length hybrid documentary about rural eldercare. Told over the course of four seasons, the film explores non-traditional, community-centered eldercare models allowing seniors to age in their homes, safely, and with dignity.
A meditation on aging, acts of compassion, and companionship, this story that extends well beyond my own personal experience. Today, nearly 40 million adult children provide unpaid care for an aging parent; a figure that has tripled over the past decade and will continue to rise. Known in eldercare circles as “the silver tsunami”, the elderly population is set to nearly double to 88.5 million people by 2050. A generational decline of this scale is unprecedented, underway and accelerating, yet end-of-life issues remain a cultural taboo. We avoid, we keep private, we don’t “do death well”.
I get it. It’s not an easy conversation to have. How do we care for aging parents who cannot afford professional care? How do we ensure that institutional care facilities, already understaffed and underfunded, don’t buckle under increasing demands? How do adult sons and daughters provide unpaid care without sacrificing their own livelihoods? These are not easy questions, and there are no easy answers. But as a filmmaker, I believe that cinema is the most powerful and accessible medium to deal with difficult subject matter. Using live accompaniment to create a unique, live cinematic experience, free-of-charge, the film is a vehicle to open and shift discourse around the needs of the aging population. As the first tides of the silver tsunami crash ashore, it’s time we honor the millions of sons and daughters who have quietly forfeited livelihoods to care for aging parents, and prepare a new generation to do the same.
NEWS & PUBLICATIONS
Lanterna Newsletter, The Circle of Care (December 2017)
Lanterna Newsletter, An Act of Altruism (December 2017)
Lanterna Newsletter, In Pictures: A First-Look at "Caregivers" (September 2017)
Lanterna Newsletter, Kreitzer Presents First-Look with Live Orchestration at 3rd Annual MNFF (August 2017)
Take Magazine, Jesse Kreitzer: Truth in Filmmaking I PDF
Seven Days, Vermont Filmmaker to Create Film on Elder Care I PDF
Lanterna Newsletter, Project Announcement #2 (January 2017)
Lanterna Newsletter, Project Announcement #1 (December 2016)
Lanterna Newsletter, Vermont Symphony Orchestra Partners on Next Project (September 2016)