Prof. Robert E. Yahnke
College of Education and Human Development
University of Minnesota
I have been studying the experience of aging in film since the late 1970s, when I taught a new course in my department called Humanities in Modern Living. Each instructor selected three themes from a listing that included--among others--family, friendship, mental health, nature, sports, community, and aging. I combined family, mental health, and aging in my first section, and then I discovered there was a treasure trove of educational media on the experience of aging, some documentary and some short fiction films, in the university's media center. I began to study those resources beyond the boundaries of my sections of the new course, and eventually I went on to teach two courses at the university, Humanities and Aging and The Experience of Aging and Family Living (both for certificate programs), and I used several educational films in those courses. My research in educational films culminated in a 1987 publication The Great Circle of Life: A Resource Guide to Films and Aging, published by Wilkins & Wilkins, and I devoted many conference papers in the 1990s and 2000s toward the study of both educational and feature-length films on aging, and I co-authored two editions of a monograph, Audiovisuals on Aging for the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education during that period. In 2000 my chapter, "Intergeneration and regeneration: Old age in films and v ideos," was published in Handbook of the Humanities and Aging, 2nd ed. (Ed. T. Cole, R. Kastenbaum, R. Ray. (A revision of that chapter is in press.) In 2005 my chapter "Heroes of their own stories: Expressions of aging in international cinema," appeared in Aging Education in a Global Context. (Eds. D. Shenk & . Groger).
In 2006 I was asked to teach one of two courses on the experience of aging organized around an NEH grant written by Charles Nicholas.** (More than 15 such classes were organized around the country.) Mr. Nicholas coined the term elderquest, which refers to the real or metaphoric journeys taken by old people in order to resolve longstanding conflicts in their lives. One of the classes was taught on the University of Minnesota campus. I was asked to teach the second class, offered to a Lifelong Learning group that meets regularly in Crosby, MN, a town in the Brainerd-Lakes area north of the Twin Cities. More than 35 older adults attended that class, which included the study of five films and two novels. That class began an intellectually stimulating, emotionally rewarding, and downright exhilirating relationship with the Crosby Lifelong Learning group. They have invited me back several times since then, allowed me to design my own four-week courses around a variety of themes related to the experience of aging in film, and have kept me challenged and centered as I continue to study film. The links below will take you to resources I used in teaching these classes on the experience of aging in feature-length films. For additional resources on films on aging, see the home page, Resources for Teaching Film.
Conditions for Use: Robert E. Yahnke is the sole author of all of these written materials. Request permission from the author, and holder of copyright, for any of these resources--and only for educational use only. Please insure that the following lines are added in any handout you use for teaching purposes: Summary/Exercise/Notes written by Robert E. Yahnke; all resources copyright by Robert E. Yahnke, © 2009, used by permission of the author.
**Charles Nicholas, Ph.D., formerly of a professor at Loyola University of New Orleans, chair of the English Department in Endicott College and the Derryfield School, and since 2000 President and Co-Founder (with Sally Mack) of Elderquest: Workshops in Creative Aging.