Old Enough to Know Better
By Ron Levaco
At the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning the student body is composed entirely of retired persons. There are no grades, no exams, and no graduation. All the classes are taught by retired professors, who are encouraged to develop new courses in subjects of interest to them. The only criteria for acceptance is the desire to learn.
Old Enough to Know Better is the remarkable story of the Fromm Institute as seen through the eyes of its students and teachers. Founded in 1976, the Fromm Institute has been at the forefront of the movement for life long learning. Catering to the rapidly growing constituency of ‘older' students, it provides senior citizens a place of learning where they can pursue their interests, interact in a social environment, and once again actively participate in society and their own lives.
Located on the beautiful campus of the University of San Francisco, the Fromm Institute attracts its students - or ‘frommies' - from all over the city. They come on foot, on motorized riders or driven by their children. In the film, they are seen crossing the campus with their backpacks and briefcases, studying in classrooms, discussing the personal attachments they've made, and talking about the overall positive effect the school has had on their lives.
Sam Wellbaum, a lifelong professor in the Humanities, teaches Jazz at the Institute. He explains that before he came to Fromm, he was disillusioned with the entire education process. Now he feels an excitement in teaching that he's never experienced before.
In the course of shooting this film, Sam Wellbaum passed away. During his memorial, the seats were filled with students, friends and fellow teachers. At the Fromm, death is a subject that's neither avoided nor feared — it's simply taught in one of its classes.
Heartwarming and uplifting, Old Enough to Know Better shows the struggles and personal gains experienced by a group of individuals (both students and professors), who, in a culture that values youth over old age, have chosen to go back to school and take control of their lives.
As society prepares for an ever-increasing graying population, this film offers inspiration for the lifelong teacher and student in all of us.
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"A richly textured picture of old age in the United States at the end of the twentieth century.... Old Enough to Know Better offers a moving and inspirational view of old age as an invaluable time of personal growth. This film is not just for seniors and educators working with seniors, it is a film for anyone who plans to grow old. In other words, it is a film for everyone."Aging and the Human Spirit
"Poignantly captures the perspective of students whose lives have been enriched and renewed as a result of their college experience... Memorable and inspiring."The Gerontologist
"A gem of a tribute to the transformative power of lifelong learning. Direct, honest, engaging!"Richard Dubanowski, Dean, College of Social Sciences, University of Hawaii at Manoa
"An inspiration to all of us older folks who want to continue learning."Judy Stone, San Francisco Chronicle
Awards & Conference Screenings
54th Annual Conference of the Gerontological Society of America
Aging in America: This riveting documentary introduces us to aging athletes, activists, wranglers and strippers, and to inmates growing old in our nation's prisons. A compassionate, often surprising glimpse into the real lives of those who are reaching their "golden" years in the first part of the twenty-first century.
Sage: Celebrates the wisdom, experience, and creativity of our society's elders through portraits of a diverse group of active, engaged seniors pursuing their lifetime interests, and some new ones as well. Among those profiled is TV chef Julia Child.
Breathe Easy: When 78-year-old Lois Perelman recently developed Emphysema, she was devastated at the thought that she would have to carry an oxygen tank around for the rest of her life. Determined not to let her own past stereotypes of people on oxygen affect her enthusiasm for life, she set out to change the tape in her own head — and society’s views of aging and disability as well.
The Checker King: Fighting poor health and depression, 81-year-old Harold O'Brien journeys to the National Checker Championship after losing his wife, Norma. This warm and inspiring story is honest about the darker realities of aging and depression.
To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website