What is a life well lived? It is worth paying attention when the answers to this question are given by spirited, content, senior citizens. In the documentary film Lives Well Lived, Celebrating the Secrets, Wit & Wisdom of Age, first-time director Sky Bergman inquisitively asks 40 seniors for their words of wisdom. Their responses are surprisingly commonplace but never cliché.
The filmmaker was inspired by her 100-year-old grandmother. Sky became fascinated by her centenarian grandmother’s optimism, and sought to document how she and others like her make the most of life. Sky asks sweeping questions including, “What is the secret for a happy life?” Through montages, you glean nuggets of personal philosophies from the each of the film stars.
What a Life Well Lived Includes
According to the film, a life well lived includes the following:
“Being endlessly engaged in whatever your passion is.”
“Setting a goal and trying to achieve it.”
“Following what you believe in.”
“Having friends that support you.”
“Knowing when to say no and when to say yes.”
“Being contented within your own skin.”
“Accomplishing your goals.”
“Loving people, being peaceful within yourself.”
“Taking chances, learning new skills, not being in a rut.”
“Knowing the world is a better place because you’ve gone through it.”
Inspiration in Lives Well Lived
Life lessons, sure. But more than just reflections, the film profiles the beautiful lives of some of these upbeat folks. Many of the octogenarian-plus Americans featured here were born outside of the country. All of them lived through World War II, and many were directly affected by it. In the film, they appear to have accepted what they have and have had. Many of these inspiring seniors have discovered fulfilling pastimes in their later years, such as music, dance, and the arts.
Yoga Teacher Emmy Cleaves, A Life Well Lived
Take for example the life story of Emmy Cleaves, who is an active Los Angeles yoga instructor at age 86. As a youth, she became separated from her mother at age 15 at a train station in Latvia during WWII and was taken to Germany, where she was raised by a kindly school teacher. Since Emmy was born on July 4, she chose to come to the US when the war ended. Years later when Stalin died in 1960, her mother came to Los Angeles for a long-awaited reunion. “Never become a victim, there’s always hope,” she says.
In 1963, Emmy met her soulmate at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, and they are still married today. She defines herself as a yogini. A popular teacher, she teaches Bikram Yoga sequences in a leotard. Her sage advice, “I want as many people to do yoga as possible… it is a priceless gift you can gift yourself. Health is where everything is at.” And for the maturing crowd, “It is not your numerical age, it’s your biological age. Think young, act young, feel young, forget the number.”
More Lives Well Lived
The website for the film Lives Well Lived has a section called Shared Stories where anyone can post a photo and anecdotes of a loved one, living or passed, who embraces the sprit of a life well lived.
Go See the Film!
The film opens in Los Angeles (at Laemmle Monica Film Center, Town Center 5 in Encino, and Playhouse 7 in Pasadena), Palm Desert, Santa Barbara and Laguna Niguel on April 20. It rolls out nationwide in select cities as well. For more information and lists of screening dates and locations, visit: lives-well-lived.com
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga . Now, she’s working on teaching yoga and joy of life to the grandkids!