An Interdisciplinary Approach to Aging and the Built Environment

Aging in Film

University of Kansas Aging in Film Classes

Up nearly 30 years since the turn of the 20th century, life expectancy for the total population in the U.S. reached the all-time high of 80 years old. The increase in life expectancy and the post-World War II baby boom (1946-64) will result in a dramatic increase in the proportion of adults over 65 during the next 20 years (to one-fourth of the total population). “The challenge of reinventing very old age,” writes gerontologist Laura Carstensen, “will be the greatest social revolution the baby boom generation ever faced.” How can we imagine and support the life course as something other than biological, social, and productive decline? How does age correlate with our value to society? How do we create and sustain infrastructures and institutions that enable us to release our greatest potential across the entire life span? We will consider these questions as we examine constructions of aging in documentary and commercial narrative films.


Cheryl Lester

Associate Professor of English and American Studies            

1445 Jayhawk Blvd., Wescoe 3001

University of Kansas

Lawrence, KS  66045-7594



Featured Films

Films vary from one semester to another, depending on which ones are available for streaming. Streaming makes the films readily available to students both before class for study and during class for discussion. Each film in the list below is linked to more information about it.

56 Up (2012)

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)

An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

Andrew Jenks: Room 335 (2006)

Away from Her (2006)

Beginners (2010)

Cocoon (1985)

Detropia (2012)

Four Seasons Lodge (2008)

Grandma's Bottle Village: The Art of Tressa Prisbrey (1982)

How to Live Forever (2009)

Hundred and Two Mature: The Art of Harry Lieberman (1980)

I’m Not Rappaport (1996)

In Her Shoes (2005)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)

Mid-August Lunch [Pranzo di ferragosto] (2008)

My Piece of the Pie [Ma part du gateau] (2011)

Nobody’s Fool (1994)

Old Partner (2008)

On Golden Pond (1981)

Paper Dolls (2006)

Something’s Gotta Give (2003)  

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring (2003)

Summer Hours (2008)



Aging in Film

ENGL 205 Film A Piece of Work

ENGL 205 Aging in Film

University of Kansas    Fall 2013

Professor Cheryl Lester

TR at 11:00am - 12:15pm in 4076 Wescoe Hall

Students will view a variety of US and international commercial narrative films and documentaries from the neoliberal period that present aging in older adults and deterioration of the institutions that could support public life across the entire life course. Films about aging are proliferating not only as the proportion of adults over 65 increases to one in four over the next 20 years but also as the political will to invest in public life sinks beneath short-sighted corporate interest in profits. Through critical analysis of films and introductory readings on film, aging, culture, and neoliberalism, students will consider film as part of larger cultural processes that shape our thinking about aging, public interest, and the good life. Class is run as a discussion, and student evaluation is based on class preparation and participation, short papers, and a final project. Required texts: Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Aged by Culture (2004); Amy Villarejo, Film Studies: The Basics (2007); and additional readings posted on Bb. Films: 56 Up, My Piece of the Pie [Ma part du gateau], I’m Not Rappaport, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Young@Heart, Mid-August Lunch [Pranzo di ferragosto], and Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Office hours: TR 2:00-4:00pm or by appointment
Appointment Sign-up Board at 3068 Wescoe
Phone: 864-2503

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