We are honored to have a voice at the Media that Matters conference to lend our support for the PBS series, Independent Lens. Films like Almost Home and Penelope: The Documentary raise awareness about important issues in our field like culture change in nursing homes and the value of creative engagement in the lives of older Americans. Unfortunately, these issues – as well as others in the aging realm – rarely hit the prime time. But increasingly, we know that these issues will become a bigger part of our discourse at both the national and the community level. If we sanction the removal of important discussions now, we are setting ourselves up for failure later. We need to listen to the stories of the generations that come before us. From them, we can learn from their mistakes and build on their successes.
At LeadingAge, we are focused on helping older Americans thrive as they age. We represent thousands of dedicated organizations that provide aging services at the community level. From nursing homes to hospice to adult day services, LeadingAge and its member organizations believe that giving older Americans and their caregivers the right tools to age gracefully and respectfully is what they are entitled to and what they deserve. LeadingAge believes that aging has a fulfilling purpose in life, and yet is not appreciated. Furthermore, caregiving is an essential community, family, business, and government responsibility, and yet is undervalued.
We advocate a national TV broadcast on public television that is integral for independent documentaries to guarantee funding for production and community engagement programs that bring these films to organizations like LeadingAge. Without a home on PBS in primetime, many films that have the power to sway public debate, that enlighten the general public, and enact positive change will not get made. Instead, stereotypes of older people, which are too often trivialized through humor, misunderstandings about personal development in late life, denial of the aging process, and the assumption that life has less value to society the older we get, will continue to be the norm.
LeadingAge supports a future for Independent Lens & POV on primetime to protect PBS’s mandate to give a voice to those underrepresented in for-profit media. Older adults are often underrepresented in mainstream, for-profit media, and we are committed to seeing that change. Media that Matters is a key and often lone voice to challenge these misperceptions through films and documentaries like Independent Lens and movies like “I’ll Be Me” – the Glen Campbell film about his farewell tour and the importance of caregiving.
Join me in recognizing PBS’ important contribution to conversations we want to continue to have, as our grandparents, parents, peers, and children age. Perception is the reality until we change it, and PBS is essential to the change.