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Amherst College alumna seeks grant for video series on elders


Amherst College graduate Bessie Young, right, is pictured in Japan in 2012.

SUBMITTED PHOTO Amherst College graduate Bessie Young, right, is pictured in Japan in 2012. Purchase photo reprints »

Bessie Young, who graduated in 2011 and was called the angel of the Amherst Senior Center, is hoping to gain support for “Grow Old With Me,” a Web series she has developed that focuses on the elderly in Northern Ireland and portrays the humorous and heartfelt sides of aging.

Young said in an email that the idea is the grant money, from the Arthur Guinness Projects, would assist her in traveling to care homes throughout Northern Ireland and then collaborating with elders in making online webisodes.

“The emphasis of all the shorts will be humor and creativity,” Young said. “By the end there will be a giant collection of short films, viewable online, that have been created hand in hand with the elders who star in them.”

Each webisode will be told in a way envisioned by the elder with which she is working. This might include acting out a scene from their lives or favorite movies, having an interpretive dancer perform a response to a specific memory or showcasing daily life through an elder’s point of view.

Young said most people want to live full lives and grow to old age.

“If we take notice of the humor and vitality that fills those older years, we can make society a better place for older people now and a better place for ourselves in the years to come,” Young said.

A New Jersey native, Young is hoping that people will help her through online voting and receiving funding through Guinness, an outgrowth from the beer maker that provides an online platform for artists to promote their work.

Young, who is currently living in Belfast, has traveled to care homes throughout the United States, Turkey, France and Japan previously.

“I’m hoping that this type of work will become a model, creative collaboration and participatory documentation of the aging process and life in care homes, and will encourage people to see that later life is filled with laughter and creativity,” Young said.

To earn the prize, Young must be voted into the top 10 percent in the arts category before her entry will be reviewed by a panel of arts judges, which includes comedian and “Bridesmaids” star Chris O’Dowd.

Voting ends Aug. 23. To participate, visit www.arthurguinnessprojects.com/arts/grow-old-with-me-1.

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