89 year-old Phyllis challenges the taboo of talking about death as she and her family make a surprising decision about end-of-life care. This beautiful, intimate short documentary provokes critical questions about how to grow old with dignity in America.
I loved the film, start to finish. It was a pleasure getting to know the family featured in Nine To Ninety. Families are such remarkable organisms, with all of their unpredictable and frequently unfathomable working parts, and the film captures both the expected and the unexpected feelings and actions of families who are actually in a state of decent communication with each other. The filmmakers' respect for the family shines through even as they candidly reveal the challenging decisions that each person makes. Nine To Ninety has great teaching potential because it requires the viewer to form their own opinions rather than laying it all out there. That method of teaching, we know, has far greater and longer lasting impact than “telling". A remarkable work.
Nine To Ninety is the love story of Phyllis and Joe Sabatini, who at age 89 and 90 live in the home of their daughter and son-in-law, where they relish time with their young granddaughter Jacqueline. But as the family struggles to make ends meet and the grandparents’ health problems escalate, Phyllis becomes determined to free her daughter from the burden of caring for everyone from nine to ninety. When Phyllis makes a difficult decision to move 3,000 miles away to live with their other daughter, she faces parting from Joe, her husband of 62 years. While Joe has become resigned to his ailments, Phyllis yearns to live with agency and independence even with limited resources, and the couple’s surprising choices ignite bigger conversations about how to age with dignity.
There are numerous opportunities throughout the film that lend themselves to class discussion. The final scene with 89 year-old Phyllis Sabatini is a really teachable moment in the classroom for anyone (e.g., me) who uses Eriksonian stages to scaffold adult development. Clearly, the relationships within the family are critical as is the grandfather¹s decision to have dialysis. That alone could spark good conversation about Medicare and health care issues at the end of life. I also liked how the couple¹s relationship was captured realistically, i.e., it was portrayed with the challenges and not as a perfect marriage.
This film provides a fascinating case study of the communication issues faced by families caring for an older family member. It demonstrates the challenges in managing conflict, and some of the ethical dilemmas that multiple generations of the family confront. It reflects numerous dimensions of the academic research on caregiving, including the research on maintaining control and independence in whatever elements of life you can. This is conveyed so well in the moment when Phyllis says, "It's nice when you can help yourself." The film captures a huge amount of insight on that time of life in a very short package. I plan on using the film in undergraduate classes on communication across the lifespan.
The Educator Guide is informative, thoughtful, offers many options for discussion. As an instructor myself in this area, I appreciate it and will use in my courses.
The film engages the audience from the start with the life stories of engaged older adults who have learned how to age well.
We found Nine to Ninety to be an insightful and beautifully shot film with sweet and moving characters. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to screen the film at the festival and to such incredible audience response.