I can’t recall a documentary ever starting with the filmmaker explaining that the subject matter was neither a passion, nor even something in which he was particularly interested, but that’s exactly how Seth Hancock opens his film. He claims to never have thought much about aging, yet was asked to make a film on hunger within the senior citizen community, based on his experience as a photographer.
“Food Insecure seniors” is a term explained during Leftovers. The film’s statistics show 6 million seniors go hungry every day; countless others experience uncertainty over the when/where/what of their next meal. These are the ‘lost and forgotten.’ It’s a national disgrace. Meals on Wheels was a major backer of the film, as were some other organizations that assist seniors.
Director Hancock divides the film into three parts: Learning to Care, Giving a S**T, and Looking for Solutions. There are segments filmed in Marin County California, Owsley County Kentucky, Orlando, Detroit, and Austin. Each area has their own issues, but the problems are remarkably similar – we just don’t do a very good job of making sure the elderly have enough to eat and are properly cared for.
It’s pointed out that these are the folks who fought our wars, built our towns, and educated our populace. They deserve better. There is a particularly interesting interview with Carla Laemmle, a former dancer and actress. She is the niece of Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle. Carla explains that without her daily delivery from Meals on Wheels, she would be “stuck” in a retirement center or hospital, instead of living independently in her own home.
The film mixes in interviews with the CEOs of Meals on Wheels and AARP, as well as numerous senior citizens and volunteers. It’s noted that every dollar invested in Meals on Wheels saves up to $50 in Medicaid spending. Other statistics are equally stunning and eye-opening, including the projected number of seniors in 2020 and the importance of Social Security benefits as the bulk of income for seniors.
Frustration with government and politicians is expressed throughout Leftovers, as is the good-heartedness of so many folks (many of whom also are frustrated by bureaucracy) who strive to bring a little joy – and food – into the lives of unfortunate seniors. Healthcare and socialization are touched on, as is the contrast in Texas of the applications for handguns (1 page) versus food stamps (18 pages). The issue of hunger for senior citizens is not going away, and it’s time for real solutions – not just because it’s humane, but also because folks deserve better.