Nursing homes have been a focal point in conversations around the pandemic, have you been able to check in with Sergio or any of the residents of the San Francisco Retirement Home since COVID-19 hit?
COVID made an impact on the retirement home and on Sergio´s life. Sergio was used to being active and moving a lot, so his life became more isolated. But he has been in good health and living with his family. After he left the retirement home, he visited his friends there, but since the pandemic, he can only call them. The retirement home had to close their doors to visitors, but before the pandemic they actually didn’t have many visitors, so the residents' lives didn’t change much. Before the pandemic, there were still people dying and their funerals were without any family members. The pandemic of loneliness was already there. So the change is really more for the family members who started realizing how long it’d been since they visited their parents or grandparents. COVID was a big blow to the conscience of those who are outside, about how little they were calling parents or grandparents. The pandemic made everyone conscious of the disconnect.
What have been the reactions from Sonia’s and Sergio’s families after seeing the film?
They love the film. They feel that the film really represents and shows their experience of what they were living.
So many of our conversations around aging and elder care focus on differences within certain cultures, the difference between parents/grandparents coming to live with their children rather than enter a nursing home, for example. You’ve shown the film all over the world, have you noticed if the film resonates in certain countries more than others? Or have you found that a lot of what the film tackles is pretty universal?
I think this year, because of the pandemic, the film started to become more universal because old people and retirement homes were at the center of the discussion in every country. Old people don’t live with their families anymore because houses are not as big as they used to be so homes become necessary. In many countries, to be in a retirement home is a symbolic death because it means to be disconnected from family and social and cultural life. So the challenge is how to maintain people’s relationship to their previous life and societies, even if they are not living with their families. Those kinds of bridges haven’t been built yet and we need them.
If you could choose one thing you’d like audiences to take away from watching The Mole Agent, what would that be?
For me is that there is no age for new experiences, to live new lifes. And old age is full of new opportunities and there is not one single way to live old age. Every person is a world in and of themselves and there are so many different situations and stories.
What are you working on next?
A documentary love story.