July 5, 2013 - Richard Bever’s father-in-law, Peter Scoles, was not one to sit still. Despite the fact that he was 92, legally blind and newly ensconced in an assisted living facility in Philadelphia. “He gets bored quickly,” explains Bever, a documentary film maker and former client of JVS WHEST, located at the West Hollywood Library. “So within weeks of moving into this assisted living facility, he chose to organize the other clients of Devon Manor and make a film. This is despite the fact that none of them were filmmakers or had ever made a film before.”
They produced a 48-minute black-and-white World War II espionage thrilled titled “The Telephone” which had its premiere in the rec room of Devon Manor (grossing $72.)
Not content to hang up their cameras, Macbooks and tripods, the Devon Manor filmmakers - ages 65 to 92 - went back to work on their next feature – a vampire film titled “A Bloody Mess.” And it was at this point that Bever picked up his own camera and started working on his next project.
That would be the documentary “Rebels of the 3rd Age.” Members of the 3rd Age – those 65 and older – numbered 39 million in 2009 and are among the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Bever estimates that by the year 2030, when all surviving Baby Boomers will be over 65, there will be 72 million seniors. By 2050, the number of seniors will jump to 90 million.
Reaching “a certain age” does not automatically translate to retirement. In conducting his “Rebels” research, Bever went on the hunt for resources around Los Angeles and Northern California designed to keep seniors engaged in culture and the arts. He also started looking for opportunities available to 3rd Age-ers who were unable or unwilling to retire. The research has taken him to New York and Philadelphia as well.
This employment business is by no means entirely a young person’s game. Reviewing the May national employment data in his monthly Jobs Byte, economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy research notes that workers over the age of 55 are getting a “disproportionate share of the job gains:”
“Employment of workers of age 55 accounted for 203,000 of the 319,000 gain in employment reported for May,” Baker writes. “Over the last year they have accounted for 1,205,000 of the 1,596,000 reported rise in employment. Since employment bottomed out in December of 2009, older workers have gotten 4,205,000 of the 5,673,000 growth in employment or 74.1 percent.”
“I have two clients now in their 70s who are actively looking for work,” adds David Kruskall, JVS WHEST Program Manager.
Bever recently interviewed Kruskall and JVS Director of Workforce Development Marguerite Womack about the opportunities and challenges faced by mature workers. Portions of that interview will likely make it into “Rebels,” which Bever hopes to have completed by the fall. Through a Crowdfunding campaign, he hopes to raise $40,000 to finance the first 20 minutes. He estimates the entire project will carry a budget of around $300,000.