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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
How to Live Forever
Directed by Mark Wexler
Docurama 05/11 DVD/VHS Documentary
Out of sight, out-of-mind. That is how many view elders in a culture dominated by youth and the yearning to be forever young. But now there are 100,000 centenarians in America and they are among the fastest growing age cohorts. Animated by the death of his artistic mother and the arrival of his AARP card, Mark Wexler decided to make a documentary about longevity and brief profiles of some of the oldest people in the world. His findings are quite interesting. The contrast is very vast between the elders in Okinawa who keep busy and eat an ocean-based diet that is low-calorie and the 101-year-old Brit who drinks liquor every day and has been smoking since he was seven years old. The common ground all of them seem to share is a genetic capacity for living long.
Wexler takes a brief tour through America to convey our fear of death and our fascination with anti-aging products that promise eternal youth. Among those covered is a spokesperson for The Funeral Directors Convention; a competitor in the Ms. Senior America pageant; Wexler's participation at "Vibrant Brains," a San Francisco business selling games and puzzles to keep the brain fit; and some residents at a Seventh Day Adventist nursing home who salute the Sabbath as a way coping with stress. The filmmaker goes global in his coverage with portraits of an old man in the Far East who flies kites; another one who at ninety-two years of age still works as a fisherman every day; the leader of the "elder porn" movement in Japan; and residents of a nursing home who are comforted by robots instead of animals. Wexler travels to Iceland where the most males who live long are to be found.
Some very entertaining moments are provided by the late Jack LaLanne, the entrepreneur who sold Americans on exercise machines; Phyllis Diller, poking fun at old people; Suzanne Somers and her enthusiastic advocacy of hormones and vitamins for optimum health and longevity; and a guru in the burgeoning Laughter Yoga Movement.
The filmmaker also provides a positive slant on longevity by futurist Ray Kurzweil, science fiction author Ray Bradbury, Cambridge biogeneticist Dr.Aubrey de Grey and a female advocate of cryogenics. On the other side are those who are less optimistic about life-extension such as Sherwin Nuland and Pico Iyer. The latter warns about the shadow side of this emphasis on self-absorption and the refusal to accept human limitations world where everything is transitory.
Special features on the DVD include over 30 minutes of deleted Scenes and extended interviews
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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Check out these other resources that explore extending human life.
The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study by Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin
You: Staying Young The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz