Most Canadians will never enter a seniors residence—in the 2016 census, for example, 93.2 percent of those 65 years and older lived in private dwellings.
So unless someone has directly felt the impact of a COVID-19 death in a seniors facility, it’s hard to truly comprehend the pain of loved ones and employees who have faced this head-on.
But Dominique Keller’s poignant NFB documentary, Love: The Last Chapter, can go a long way toward building Canadians’ empathy for those living in a such residences.
Shot in the Silvera Aspen facility in Calgary before COVID-19 cast a pall over long-term care homes, it revolves around three elderly couples who’ve kept the flame of love alive even after their bodies deteriorated with age.
Romance is in the air between Jim, who gets around in a wheelchair, and Dianne as they twirl around the dance floor.
A blind man named George rues the day when he’ll be separated by death from his precious wife, Doreen. But he knows she’s okay whenever she starts snoring like a truck driver.
And Ruby and Victor playfully cuddle up in bed.
It's raw and real, tender and sincere. These seniors speak without inhibitions even though they know that everything they're doing is being preserved on-camera—a testament to how much trust they have in the filmmaker.
Keller also shows the kitchen workers preparing meals, the residents going on outings, and the hopes and fears that come with living in what Ruby calls “God’s holding pen”. These are authentic, loving, caring people coping with unimaginable challenges—and not the caricatures of seniors so often depicted in Hollywood movies.
Under normal circumstances, Love: The Last Chapter would come across as a captivating glimpse into a world that few of us can understand.
In the age of COVID, it’s a vivid reminder of how love continues to prevail in a generation that has been mowed down by a horrific virus. It's truly inspiring.