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I’ve been looking for ways to volunteer here in Calgary. From time to time, I’ve found ways to step forward and help (at the Stampede Parade at the Children’s Hospital, for example), but I want to do more in the remaining year and a half here, so I have been researching just how to do it. One way that immediately speaks to me is helping children and/or adults to learn to read. I’m pursuing that avenue now.

In my research, I also came across a volunteer opportunity as a film reviewer. What? That’s right up my alley! I am now a film reviewer for the 3rd ACTion Film Festival, created by Mitzi Murray, which will be held here in Calgary June 8-10.

THIRD ACTion Film Festival celebrates aging and older adults (seniors) while helping to create an age-positive culture shift and encourage everyone to envision and act upon the best third act possible. (The Third Act is defined as the last three decades of life, age 70s, 80s, and 90s.)

This isn’t the only such film festival celebrating the richness of the older life. There are many such film festivals around the world. It’s now a thing.

THIRD ACTion Film Festival’s primary goal is to celebrate aging and the accomplishments of older adults, to help encourage and speed along an age-positive culture shift, away from the concept of decrepitude past age 50 and toward an acceptance of continued value and enhancement of life. The film festival will present films, documentaries, and shorts relating to aging and culture.

For my part, I will watch 75+ films (ranging from 3 min. to 2 hr. long) and rate them on relevance to the topic. We all know the films Cocoon, Bucket List, On Golden Pond (“You’re my knight in shining armor, and don’t you forget it!”; “You are a pretty old dame, aren’t you?”), and other Hollywood presentations of aging, but this festival will present less-known films that address the myriad issues of growing old in a youth-centered culture. (Just an aside, regardless of how you feel about the stars of the show, and I know there are some strong feelings out there, I highly recommend “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix. A few topics aside, this is a fun and truthful look at the Third Act.)

As I wrote in an earlier post, aging in our culture is not for the faint of heart. Since I let my hair go natural silver, I have been immediately treated differently, sometimes humorously so, and sometimes maddeningly so. Recently, Tom and I went to see the new Churchill move (marvelous, by the way), and the evening we went there were about twenty folks in the theater, all older folks. We had just settled in our seats when a twenty-something usher came sidestepping down the row toward us. Leaning over to me, she brandished a cane high and said, “Ma’am, did you forget your cane at the concessions stand?” Startled, I said, “No.” Leaning closer to me, she said, “Are you sure?” At this point, all I could do was laugh. Was she suggesting that I’d forgotten that I use a cane? I knew who it belonged to, I’d seen the lady in front of me at the concessions/ticket sales, wild white hair and at least 16 years older than me, if not more. I guess the concessions person had said, “She’s an old lady with white hair who just went into Theater 1.” Guess that would be me. Well, at that point, all you can do is laugh.

But sometimes, it isn’t so funny, especially when I am discounted simply because of the color of my hair, as if I don’t matter anymore. As if I couldn’t possibly be interested in cross-country skiing, dog sledding, kayaking, learning to fly fish (“Oh, good for you!”), or some other physical activity because I have silver hair. At those times, I just want to scream, “Look, there’s a vast difference between 60 and 90, so don’t lump all old folks together under one hair color, ya moron.” But my protest would fall on deaf youthful ears.

And thus the reason I want to help with this film festival. It’s my little bid to help change the culture to one of acceptance and understanding of the aging process. It isn’t all disease and death and snarky wisdom. As a friend of mine said, her mother felt her 60s were the best years of her life, and I have heard others say the same, even into the 70s and 80s. By then, you’re done with the rat race, done with raising kids, and done with striving to reach your greatest potential. At that point, you can simply reach your greatest potential without pressure and at your own pace.

It’s hard enough accepting that your body is beginning to let you down as you age, without having to deal with mindsets that think gray/silver/white hair indicates “shelf life over.” Heck, we’re free to do what we want to do now. How can that be a bad thing?!

There are going to be a hell of a lot of us stepping into our third act in the next few decades. The world had better be ready. As Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”