Nine to Ninety is the love story of Phyllis and Joe Sabatini, who at age 89 and 90 live in the home of their daughter, Juli Vizza, and son-in-law, where they relish time with their 9-year-old granddaughter Jacqueline.
But as the family struggles to make ends meet and the grandparents’ health problems escalate, Phyllis becomes determined to free her daughter from the burden of caring for everyone from 9 to90.
When Phyllis makes a difficult decision to move 3,000 miles away to live with their other daughter, she faces parting from Joe, her husband of 62 years. While Joe has become resigned to his ailments, Phyllis yearns to live with agency and independence even with limited resources, and the couple’s surprising choices ignite bigger conversations about how to age with dignity.
Vizza, an award-winning film producer, had told the stories of others for. She asked director Alicia Dwyer if she would help her make a film about her own family.
The result is Nine to Ninety, a co-production of Nine to Ninety LLC and Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The film will air at 7 p.m., Feb. 3 on KET.
Vizza and Dwyer initially thought that the Sabatinis’ daughters — as the main caregivers — would be the focus of the film. But grandmother Phyllis soon emerged as the story’s heart.
“She was really trying to make a very complicated decision and she was doing so with grace,” Dwyer said.
The filmmakers hope the documentary will encourage other families to have difficult, but necessary conversations about end-of-life care. They want others to ask, as the Sabatini family does: “What does it take to live, love and die with dignity and grace in the modern age?”
With life expectancies outpacing the infrastructure of healthcare systems, economic forecasts and support systems, there is a greater need to plan ahead for how the booming aging population will be cared for.
Whether it is about independence, money, health, caretaking, death or family relationships, these are conversations that are difficult to begin, but as 89 year-old Phyllis says in our documentary Nine to Ninety, “We’ve got to talk about it!”
On the website Ninetoninetymovie.com, the film makers say their goal is to empower families to start discussing the needs and desires of the older members, what expectations they have for their care, and how they can accomplish their goals.
Through a campaign of community screenings, educational events and public television broadcasts of the film, the film makers aim to inspire these conversations, and to help connect families with the resources that exist around them.
Ideally the campaign could provide the tools to help foster comprehensive conversations between healthcare professionals and patients, providers and clients, and caregivers with family members, they said.
Watch the Nine to Ninety trailer at Ninetoninetymovie.com. For more information about the issues of end-of-life care, how to host a screening or how to talk to your family members, visit the film’s website.