The Graying of America



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Villa Ridge, MO

I was so inspired by this story of two women in a wonderful progressive place that remained activist into their golden years! I have a new perspective and appreciation of the aging America and their powerful and important roles in paving the way of civil rights and liberties that we too often take for granted today.These women were activist in an era when it was not popular for women to do so.I just hope there is a Sunset Hall for me when I need a place for more assisted living and care! (I'm only 38 years old)
Prior Lake, MN

"Sunset Story" is REAL. This picture clearly points out that caring for the elderly means getting to know them personally. After viewing the film last night, I visited to get more information so I could call Irja and become a penpal as I fell in love with her spirit and soul. What a lovely woman. I was deeply saddened to learn of her passing three years ago. I was looking forward to a new friendship, albeit long distance. Please know that this would not have precluded me from the close relationships I have formed with the elderly at local nursing facilities. I had just wanted to relate to Irja how inspiring and influential she have great conversations with her. Thanks to your film, her spirit which will always live on, will continue to have a voice. Thank you for Irja... & Lucille. God Bless !
Jessica Wohl
Kansas City, Missouri

Never before have I been so inspired to change my life, and the lives of others, as when I watched Sunset Story. Watching this story unfold brought me back to the time I avoided my grandfather, due to my own discomfort, who was dying of Alzheimers at a nursing home.

Because of this story, I have begun working on a solo project for the Kansas City Jewish Museum, volunteering with, and painting portraits of residents just like Irja and Lucille. The exhibition of paintings will showcase how extraordinary these people are, and will confront our society's discomfort with aging and mortality. A heartfealt thank you to the creators of this film...this story is the drop in the ocean that will create a ripple effect and touch the lives of many.
Amber Forest McHale
San Diego, CA

This incredible film moved me far from my own grief of the moment and gave me such a light. What a miracle that I turned on the television last night never knowing that I would be invited into the lifes of these utterly remarkable women. Once I got past my tributing tears for Lucille's life, I watched closer at Irja's constant kindness for all those around her. I woke up this morning wanting nothing more but to emulate this same behavior. Thank you so very much for making this film. It changed my life. 4/15/05
Baltimore, MD

Why isn't there a Sunset Hall in every town in the US? I love that "free thinkers" gathering. And, they are not just free thinkers, but willing to share and care so deeply; hope! What wisdom these women have to offer us and instead most of tv land is watching imaginary fear factors.

The new word I've learned for ladies and men with such experienced courage is " GERIACTIVIST". So glad to know they are there and next time I'm in LA LA land I want to visit with them. 4/4/05
Andrea Wilner

This program is an absolute gem. I laughed through my tears as the story of these two incredible women unfolded with all its lessons of aging, commitment, friendship, and love. I hope that Sunset Hall continues to exist. It deserves to exist to honor the spirit of its occupants. 4/4/05
Barbara Arnzen
Spokane, WA

The illustrations of Irja and Lucille's lives (past and current)were powerful, poignant, and deeply moving! I have realized from my teens (when I took care of a lonely, frail woman in her 90's)that the elderly have it tough in our society. I have kept aware of this, and over the years I have supported rights for our elders in small and big ways.

Undoubtedly, America does "discard" its elderly in the form of neglect. The media rarely portrays the older population, and when it does, it's often a negative portrayal. However, kudos to a show like the Golden Girls because it at least leant dignity and a fair degree of reality to our older populace.

I do find Irja's comment about still "marching for the same things" a sad but true commentary on our American society. In my own life of under 50 years, I tend to agree with her, and with a good deal of anger and sadness I would like to add that some areas of social justice in our country are actually going backward, i.e., are becoming worse these days.

I am dispirited with what our country does and doesn't do more often than I'd care to admit. The older I become, the more I look up to people like Irja and Lucille because they keep on fighting to the end. They do not let the apparently overwhelming task of all the injustices win out and drown them in immobility and depression. When I'm feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed for a moment, I think about people like Irja, Lucille, and others who keep forging ahead. These people are my heroes and my role models for how I want to continue to live my life. My motto is akin to their lives: Never give up. 3/31/05
Gayle Blakely
Apopka FL

Discovering Independent Lens by watching "Sunset Story" was one of the best introductions to GOOD TV viewing I've had for a loooong time! Kudos to everyone involved in its presentation. I am so blessed to have a friend who is the spittin' image and personality of Irga. My first introduction to the aging minds' ability to stay healthy was when I overheard a couple of 80 year old women debating just what an amendment to our Constitution actually stated. I was amazed they cared, and more amazed when they proceeded to look it up. I wanted to be as concerned about Life as they obviously were. My mom is not in any way an activist or even concerned about current events, but she does have a very good mind. She is in a nursing facility and says the exercise programs they do are the best. She deplores the bingo, talks about homemaking and cooking that are offered. Yet others there do like that sort of thing. I pray I can find a place similar to Sunset. I loved reading the comments from others, and was surprised that so many young people watched and were moved to comment. The saddest part for me was the final demonstration at which Irga participated. She was telling the crowd that the same problems she confronted as a young woman, she was confronting that day. The crowd cheered, but I thought, my god, why does it take so long to accomplish anything! She stated earlier in the video that just voting won't get the job done. She was absolutely correct. I'll have to call my local PBS station to see why this excellent program was scheduled at 11:00 p.m. I'm so glad I taped it! 3/31/05
New York, NY

Never before have I been so profoundly touched by such a truthfull and humanizing story, all the while laughing and crying!

Having grown up in FL where I was surrounded by nursing homes and thoes waiting for the last days to come, I never took the time to understand who each person was, but blocked the elderly into a negative stereotype. They drove too slowly, took too much time in lines at the store, and just were not as quick as my fellow classmates.

Only 10 years later, one of my closest friends is 81 years old. We meet almost every day, not doing much, but just talking. Somehow the busy city of Manhattan stops when we are talking about events which passed over 50 years ago; events and people I've only read on and dreamed about. I've seen how both of us have changed for the better and have been enriched though this friendship which is truly ageless.

If only every young person would take time out from this fast paced society and apreciate the living archives embodied in our grandmothers and the elderly we so take for granted. They are our living history and we still have so much to learn.

Thank you so much!! 3/30/05

My mother who lives in tennessee kept talking about these "2 old ladies" who were lucky to find one another in a nursing home. She didnt know the name of the show but when I got home (I live in new york) after a trip I turned on pbs and there they were. What struck me about them was of course their political activism but also their friendship. I thought it wouldnt be so bad to grow old if you could be free to be yourself and express your thoughts and views and of course have a great friend like these 2 gals did. The next anti-war event I participate in I will dedicate to them. Now THEY are REAL women, there are so few on tv today. I especially like how they were portrayed, as the intelligent activists and compassionate women they truly were. I kept thinking, "Old age is not for sissies." Why couldnt they give her a shot at the end of her 95 year old life, why couldnt she die with dignity? Why did she have to suffer so? This film addresses so much more than just the lack of respect we give to our elderly. These women rock!!!!!!! 3/30/05
Jennifer (teacher of art)
Scottsdale, Arizona

WOW...Let me pull myself together here.

I was so moved watching this film, thinking about my own old age and if I will end up living among my best friend of 15 years, or alone in a home with others as the residents of Sunset Hall.

I was so moved I found the site in hopes of finding Irja and writing her a letter. Sadly, I learned she had died and felt myself moved to tears. I guess I just wish I had seen it earlier so I could tell her what a great friend and spirit she had. I have much empathy for the elderly in our country and really admire and respect that this fiml was so candid and honest and was able to exhibit the strength and character of these two women.

My grandmother Jean is still alive and at 32 I consider this such a gift. She is strong and liberal and so passionate about freedom and rights of all peoples, esp since living thru the depression in Hungary and immigrating here to the US in the 50's. I definitely feel Irja was a pioneer and I feel very strongly that she has changed my perception even more and I have tremendous respect for women of her age and life experience.

Bravo! Pls do another film like this one!! 3/30/05
Jacquelyn Katzenstein
Woburn. Ma

Age creeps up more rapidly than we like to think and we all have to face possible changes in our life situations. This program was an inspiration to those of us who are still very active both mentally and physically but aware of the calendar's relentless reality...I have come out of the same engaged life as Lucille and Irja and would have the same resistance to letting it all go: they were not going gently, nor, I hope, will I when the time comes..

Thank you for a spellbinding and thought provoking hour... 3/28/05
Jasper Indiana

Watching this presentation was very inspiring. It really fuelied my beliefs as a free thinker, I am what some call a male feminist. I believe that men too should stand up for women's rights. This encouraged me to think about trying to get a part time job at a retirement home as a activity worker. These too women eally touched my inner being and encouraged me to fight for what I beieve in and to go all the way in abtaining my dreams,sunset story really encouraged me. Thanks for making this independent film 3/28/05
Eve Young
Worcester, MA

I came to this website to find out more about Irja, but I soon read she died in 2003. I hope she knew what an impact this film would have on others. I am a 20 year old woman who is searching for my own voice and my own path. If Irja is reincarnated like she hoped the world is in for a real treat on this next go around!

On a separate note I wondered if Alpert was Lucille's maiden name or married name? My grandfather was Seymore Alpert also from Chicago and Jewish. I know very little about my extended family and wondered if Lucille might be a part of it? 3/28/05
Kim Lifton
Huntington Woods, Michigan

The documentary, Sunset Story, made me laugh and cry. One of the women who influenced my activism was much like your main characters, and it made me glad to see other stories like the one I know. My hero was Millie Jeffrey, a Detroit labor leader and friend to all women who died nearly two years ago at the age of 94. I met her when she was 80 at a pro-choice rally when the first George Bush stood in the way of so many important women's issues.

I thought the piece was amazing, and I loved the human touch you gave to the aging process. I hope that I can continue doing good things until I am old. I hope my daughter, who is just 6, will grow up to be much of the same mindset.

Thank you for the good work you've done. I hope the show airs more so others can see it. 3/25/05
Helen Symons

As a nurse for more than 40 years, and facing retirement myself I was very moved by your story. The thing that struck me in the film was the kindness and caring of the staff of Sunset Home. I hope there will be such persons available to care for me when I face my final years.

Bravo for a film well done! 3/25/05
Pensacola Florida

I was channel flipping looking for something good to watch on television this evening when before I knew it I was watching two older ladies talk about their lives in the present and the past. Boy did that hour go by fast! I really enjoyed listening to Irja and Lucille. I'm 36 years old and sometimes I think life is getting too short. After watching sunset story I don't feel that way! It was really interesting to listen and watch the two of them interact. I feel that older people have alot to teach and we (the younger population) can learn from them. Thank you Lucille and Irja! 3/25/05
Michael Booth
Rancocas NJ

Surfing through the channels I came across two old ladies having a conversation in a cab, and stop to listen for a bit. I am a Assisted Living Administrator in the State of New Jersey, and I feel that this movie was very moving and the same time I was crying I was laughing. This show was right on point, I live this every day, the ups and downs, the fun and misfortune and the life and death reality of our seniors. I thank you very much for taking the time to do this docunmentary. You pick the best two residents to portray what life is really about friendship/love/life. I am really amazed, you never get to see the real life of a senior citizen or that of one in a A.L.. So thank you and please tell me how I can purchase a copy of this show. To the families of those two beautiful ladies I thank you for letting me get to know those fine ladies..... You did a fine job, keep up the good work.

Editor's Note: Copies of SUNSET STORY are available for purchase from Capital Entertainment, 818-557-8200. See Get the Video for more information. 3/25/05

LOVED THIS! Even though I was saddened by the end, the journey was worth it and these two women were such an inspiration to me, I've watched it 3 times this week. As a middle aged woman, I admit fear about getting older, but if I can be like Irja and Lucille when I grow up, then it might not be so bad. 3/24/05
Roanoke, Virginia

What an incredibly inspiring film! Irja, I appreciated your positive outlook and have more confidence in sharing positive ideas that improve people's lives despite their outlook. You are an inspiring woman who proves you should never stop trying to impact your world. I believe staying politically active maintains mental alertness often lost in upper years, and it shows that participating in a democracy is required by citizens of all ages. At the end of the film, I found myself seeking the producers of the project which I seldom do. As a mother corporate working mother, Independent Lens offers me time to think outside of my world. Thank you! 3/24/05
Teddie Shively
Collinsville, VA

On 3-22-05 I was getting ready to go to bed when Sunset Story came on. Right away I stopped as soon as I heard those two scruff voices. Not only was my mind engaged but also this film consumed my heart. How often have we had a chance to learn, feel and see through someone�s eyes as we did with these two American treasures? Not only was the richness of their friendship brought to life but each ones persona of who they were "Great Americans". To hear what they though about the places around them and the people that were part of their everyday lives. To see through there clear minds of what we only hear and read about, to make it so real to you that not only did you laugh but you felt the passion for life and the sadness of the loss of someone you love. But most of all I can still hear in my silent thoughts "Life goes on" 3/24/05
Katie Lowe
Pasadena, Texas

I loved the program on Sunset Hall. The relationship between Irja and Lucille was just beautiful. What a kind and caring heart Irja had. So often, the elderly community is ignored and stereotyped. This show proved that despite their ages, these men and women still lived active lives, and had sharp minds and opinions right up until the end. It was just what this society needed to see!! Awesome! 3/24/05
Melanie Wadkins
Oxford, Mississippi

I am a 46-year-old progressive, and I loved this documentary. It was both thought-provoking and inspiring! The filmmakers have accomplished a lot in this 60-minute film, which totally reinforces the adage that "Old age isn't for sissies." As our country's population continues to age, this is a topic we will be forced to continue to wrestle with. What kind of independence and quality of life do we want in our retirement? 3/24/05
Spokane, WA

I watched Sunset Story last night 3/22/2005. I loved both of those women! It really made me realize that getting older is really nothing to be afraid of, its gonna be a great journey. 3/24/05
evan leigh warren
new york, ny

This film was bright, uplifting, and brought out what our society needs to do about old age: celebrate it and continue to communicate with the aged.

Independent Lens is one of PBS' best programs. This film and many others deserve a larger audience. For those who may have forgotten the elderly one of TV's biggest hits was The Golden Girls.

America must begin to end its silly love affair with physical youth to embrace all stages of life as dignified and beautiful.

I think we will have another great depression before today's generation gets a handle on how bad things still are after years of struggle. Age is only relative to how you feel about living. Life is great and these women at Sunset Hall have given us another reason why.

Staying politically active is crucial to the vitality they showed us. Never give up and keep fighting because there is too much at stake... 3/23/05
Peggy Bourg
New Orleans, LA

I loved this program. What a nice place Sunset Hall is for the elderly. Your program showed such caring people working there, with a great understanding of all their needs. 3/23/05
Lori Braun
New York, NY

I watched Sunset Hall for the first time last evening (3/22/05) on PBS Channel 13.

It made me laugh, cry and it shows how despite the number of anyone's age, their outlook on life is key.

Thank you. 3/23/05
Helene Williams
Newburgh, NY

Wow what a story, bravo. I am 59 1/2 and retired almost 2 months and live alone. I watched Sunset Hall last nite & was totally moved by its content and delivery. I saw myself in Irja in the near future. I admired her positive outlook on life and her willingness to share that with those around her, i'm sure she is missed.

My hope for graying america which i am very much a part of is that we can stand united to be recognized for what we have accomplished and not allow 'concessions' for benefits earned as we age and that there will continue to be film makers like you women to help us with that. Thank you thank you thank you for a job well done. Helene Williams an Outragous Older Woman 3/23/05
Calgary, Alberta

American society tends to discard/ignore/avoid the elderly. This is very sad and angers me alot! When my Parent's are older I'll look after them no matter what! This is how I'll raise my Children. We all will get older some time or another and we should all look after each other. 3/23/05
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I only caught the last thirty minutes of the film, but I was glad that I caught what I did. I don't often encounter people with that much passion for social and political issues, much less people of that age (and Liberal too!)

I'm graduating from high school this spring and next fall I'll be attending either Marquette University or Loyola University of Chicago. I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I know this sounds incredibly cliche, but I really do want to be just like Irja and Lucille when I grow up. 3/23/05
Boise, Idaho

What a beautiful program! I loved Irja and Lucille. How could you not. I pity those in our society that avoid ederly women. They are missing so much! My 7 year old daughter has introduced me to 2 beautiful elderly ladies who we love to visit with. I hope this program opens the eyes and hearts of people. 3/23/05
ocean city, NJ

As a writer/ film director, I often overlook certain parts of a film, but I found myself very caught up in these people's lives. I thought it was a tender, sometimes sad film. I didn't think it was rude when the elderly lady told the waitress to leave. She was invasive with her questions. It was obvious the one woman was ill, and the waitress was fishing for more info. Nice film. Check out my latest film, "The Messenger" to be shot in NYC this summer, and take a look at my short, "Harsh Light" on 3/23/05
Patricia D. Grondin
Brunswick, ME

What a wonderful program! I hope I grow old like those women, strong, powerful, opinionated, passionate, compassionate.... I found the program half way through and was still moved to tears. This is the kind of programming I love to watch. Thank you for broadcasting such fine programming. 3/23/05
Carla Gómez
San Antonio, TX

I'm a 19 year old activist active in women's rights, MEChA, and economic issues. From the movie, the residents of Sunset Hall are a huge inspiration to me. I thank them for keeping the Movement alive! 3/23/05
Steve Weiand
Milwaukee, WI

Thank you. Its perplexes me to think about growing old. I'm 28. I hate my job, get pissed at my friends, and am frustrated that not all my family share the same political motives that I do. But that i nothing compared to what i saw on your show tonight. my experiences thus far in my life don't even compare to one day of Irja and Lucille's lives. My (our) stories mean nothing without their experiences. I have just recently lost a grandmother who suffered from alzheimer's. I am fortunate to still have two grandmother's living, at a young 84 and 92. I'll call them tomorrrow and ask to hear more stories of their lives. 3/23/05
Rachel Ward
Nashville, TN

I was flipping throught the channels, with a disappointed view on my life, and I came to sunset story and started realizing that the end of my life will be a reliefe, these elderly ladies where so peaceful, it seemed to me they were satisfied with the current situation because they were not bitter. The film gave me something to look forward to, a time to just live. Just the ray of light I needed. 3/23/05
Gordon Cooke
Montreal Quebec Canada

The filmmaker of SUNSET STORY have not only humanized the elderly but have forced the younger viewers ,like the baby-boomers , to realize that we will be in the same situation in the future.What can we expect from society when it will be our turn to want to be heard ?Will we be more valued citizens than those in SUNSET STORY?

The filmmakers have surpassed themselves by getting us to transpose ourselves ,parents and loved ones into a similar setting.One cannot help but think of what our loved ones or ourselves will go through when we will be part of the SUNSET STORY.

We must do our part to value what seniors have to tell us and learn from them in order to assure that in the future ,we will not be ignored. 3/23/05
Patrick Buggy
Mechanicsburg PA

I really enjoyed the documentary. Irja & Evelyn were so full of life. Their zest for life came through in words and actions. Many people half their ages just don't get the fact that someday we will all be in that same position, If we are lucky enough to live that long. We need to take care of the elderly. They are the ones who shaped us, mentored us and in some instances...created us. We, as a society, need to put forth effort to make the golden years the best years for our seniors. The politicians don't really have to worry about their golden years "Our Tax Dollars Will Make Sure Those Years Are Worry Free" but what about the everyday ordinary CITIZEN. The ELDERLY have more than paid their dues in life. People will have different views about this documentary...I have just scratched the surface of mine.I am a 37 year old male in the financial industry. Why is I can see the issues our elderly face but the politicians can't. 3/23/05
A. Levin

I became very emotional as the film progresses.It was powerful, inspiring and poetic.I am already waiting for your next project... 3/23/05
Paul Stopnik
Proctor, MN

I just finished watching Sunset Story and still have tears in my eyes as I write this. What a wonderful presentation and kudos to the three film makers. Continued success! 3/23/05
Gabby Kearns

Finally! Something that depicts the aged with dignity. The people in this movie were quick witted and vibrant despite their ailing heath. Wow. I would have loved to know some of these ladies especially Irja. What a gift it was to watch such an entertaining as well as educational movie. Thank you. 3/23/05
Devon, PA

I just got back from CA, exhausted, and channel surfing and came across your film. I was completely sucked in. It's amazing, and these women are so so sooo wonderful, and how you captured them is nothing less than perfection. It made me laugh, brought me to tears and was better than sideways. ;-) thanks for a great and inspiring story. I'd like to purchase if I can, since these women remind me so much of my grandmother and how she's lived her life. Thanks again. 3/23/05
Lansdale, PA

After watching this show I found the idea of humanizing the edlery was certainly attained. I am 34 and I always have respected the elderly but this gives me a much more personal look into their lives, feelings and quite frankly left me feeling thier pain and lonliness. It gave me an all new respect for them and how we should do whatever we can to help care for them in thier last remaining years on earth. As far as Irja being rude. I think she had alot on her mind, she was losing her best friend and maybe she could have used better *Choice* words but give the woman a break. I think just like bartenders the waitress took the hint quite well. 3/23/05
Tracy Orloff
Philadelphia, PA

What a beautiful documentary of friendship between 2 admirable women! I work with seniors in a day center and I thoroughly enjoy the life and fiestiness of the members of our group -- they are between the ages of 56 and 99 years. It is so nice to see this more humanistic perspective of older adults on a TV program. I really felt what Irja was going through as she saw her friend changing as she became more ill. My grandmother, who inspired me to work with the elderly population, died from esophageal cancer, so the program hit home with me even more. Great work! I wish I could have known them personally. 3/16/05
Pomona, CA

I am familiar with Sunset Hall. It is a fine motion picture. I patronize Langer's Delicatessen, where the waitress shownin Sunset Hall, Evelyn, often waits on me.

I think it was rude for Irja to tell Evelyn, in the movie, to go away, by saying "just let us talk".

Often a wait person will chat up a customer when it looks like it will do some good. Evelyn is a good hearted person. That part of a great movie hurt a little. 3/14/05
Lillian Adams
Carbondale, IL

Sunset Hall sounds like a wonderful place for old people. I'm a 92 year old Unitarian, fully in control of all my faculties, and would like to have a place like Sunset Hall to live out my remaining years. Most of the new senior citizen apartments and villas tend to be peopled by pretty conservative folks.


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