After months of traveling, interviewing, filming, and video editing, I screened my documentary, "How To Be 100" on the Oklahoma State University Campus.
"How To Be 100" is a film showcasing four Oklahoma centenarians and their experiences as 100-year-olds. Reaching 100 is a milestone very few get to experience, and these people aren't just surviving - they're thriving. Each of them are active in the community, maintain their independence, and were a pleasure to meet and visit with.
Before I did this project, I knew people lived to be 100, but I never gave it much thought until a PhD student in my program clued me in. We were talking about my book, Raising the West, and she suggested I speak with Dr. Alex Bishop, a professor in human sciences who did research regarding centenarians.
I set up a time to talk with him and asked him about his research. Apparently, in Oklahoma, there is something called the "Oklahoma 100 Year Life Project." For several years, researchers have worked to document the oral histories of Oklahoman centenarians and learn more about some of the oldest old in Oklahoma. (Oldest old is kind of a jargon-y term researchers use.)
Dr. Bishop casually mentioned he thought it would be neat to do a documentary about centenarians, and I jumped at the idea. I asked him to let me work on it, found a way to include my research as part of my master's thesis, and off we went.
The project didn't go without challenges, but I can honestly say interacting with the centenarians and learning from them was my favorite part of being a graduate student.
After our interviews, I'm compiled the interviews into a cohesive story in the form of a documentary. So far, I've screened it with four university classes and each time received positive feedback. The discussion after the film has been so valuable - we've discussed aging, independence, new relationship dynamics, life lessons we can learn from older adults, and more.
The plan is to share it with extension agents, high school classes, and potentially at research conventions. Learning about our elders, whether we're young students, middle-aged adults, or on the verge of retirement is vital to providing the best level of care. Learning how to best serve them is so important, and that starts with listening to them share their own experiences.