Everyone fortunate enough to grow into old age must face inevitable decline and death. That can be worsened for some, whether because of financial difficulties or loneliness or disease. The documentary “Gen Silent,” screening Sunday, Aug. 29, at Richmond Triangle Players, shows that growing older can be even harder when you're gay.
The film takes a look at several seniors, who recount both their younger lives living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people and what it's been like to grow older and infirm and move into new phases of life. Their stories reveal an interesting generation of people who came of age during a period of intense intolerance, which gave way to activism and eventually more open forms of living. Or so they thought. As the movie points out, ironically it is those earlier times that often informs those growing older, and not unnecessarily.
The problem with being gay and elderly, the documentary argues, is how it can intensify normal problems faced by this growing segment of society, including discrimination, isolation, loss of independence and finding care. Going into a nursing home, for example, often puts such seniors back in time, with people who don't share the open-minded views of the communities they might be used to.
Fearing abuse and discrimination, some shut out their old friends in order to go back in the closet, making their situations worse. Often these people have already seen much of their families and social networks disappear. Their situation can leave them stranded, a state the movie does a good job illustrating on a very personal level.
The film concludes a little too abruptly, with a sense that it's only scratched the surface. But it's a thoughtful and revealing series of well integrated portraits demonstrating the need to be ever vigilant regarding fairness and compassion.
“Gen Silent” screens Sunday, Aug. 29, at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Ave., at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. $25. Students and seniors, $15.