News / Edmonton

'To them, it's like fiction': Reel Youth project highlights lives of seniors

The initiative is aimed at fighting ageism while building connections between generations

92-year-old Billy Morin, a veteran of the Second World War, looks up at the City Hall Cenotaph as student filmmakers Mylia Archambault (left) and Mahalia Jamerson capture footage for a documentary on the lives of seniors.

Omar Mosleh / Metro Order this photo

92-year-old Billy Morin, a veteran of the Second World War, looks up at the City Hall Cenotaph as student filmmakers Mylia Archambault (left) and Mahalia Jamerson capture footage for a documentary on the lives of seniors.

Billy Morin was just a teenager when he signed up to serve in the Second World War.

At the time, the offer of free clothing, food and a weekly allowance was too good to refuse.

“You’ve got to understand we were in the midst of a depression,” Morin recalls. “And before I knew it I was on a ship off to England on an envoy.”

Morin’s story is just one of many to be featured as part of Age Is More, a project that pairs student filmmakers with seniors such as Morin to document their lives through film.

The 92-year-old Edmontonian ultimately ended up serving in the battle of Juno Beach on June 6, 1944.

It’s a story he does not enjoy reliving, but he recognizes the importance of sharing it with today’s youth.

“I think to them, it’s like fiction,” Morin said. “If you weren’t there, you can’t imagine it.”

The project is a a collaboration between seniors housing organization Revera and Reel Youth, which trains youth to tell positive stories through film. It was launched as a way to build connections between generations.

“Age Is More is all about addressing ageism … this project is about breaking the stereotypes of what people think older people are like,” said Mark Vonesch, director of Reel Youth.

“It’s showing that older people are active, they’ve got lots to contribute and they have amazing stories.”

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Two of the youth documenting the stories are Victoria School 15-year-old Mahalia Jamerson and 14-year-old Mylia Archambault, who both attend Victoria School of the Arts.

Jamerson said she recognizes how important her own family history is and is grateful to be able to chronicle that story for others.

“I was really interested because we’re telling someone’s real life story and their kids, their grandchildren and their great grandchildren can watch these and find things out about them,” she said.

She added that she had soaked up a wide range of new filmmaking skills to boot.

Archambault said she amazed at how much she had in common with her partner Betty. The two both attended the same high school and have an affinity for singing.

“We had so much in common, which I thought was so weird because she’s 92 and I’m 14,” Archambault said.

She said filming the documentary helped her gain a greater appreciation for seniors and what they’ve been through.

“Even though they’re old, their personalities are still fresh … I realize it’s important not to forget them.”

Thus far, Age Is More has published 120 films across the country.

Members of the public can watch the films at ageismore.com

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