The biggest applause of this year’s Hebrew SeniorLife EngAGE event came not for the Emmy or Grammy Award winners but for the woman whose YouTube videos went viral and made her a celebrity at age 76. It was only appropriate for an event with the goal of redefining how we think and talk about aging.
Pat Seftel is the star of the popular My Mom on Movies web series created by her son Josh, a documentary filmmaker. After the death of his father, Josh wanted to find a way to stay connected with his mom. So he bought her an iPad, taught her to use it, and began filming their video chats. What followed was a viral sensation – Pat’s funny but touching takes on pop culture, politics and life have made her a star.
Pat and Josh were speakers at Hebrew SeniorLife’s fourth annual EngAGE, an event that cues the conversation on aging while raising important funds for innovations in the field of senior care. This year’s event was held on October 26 at the Paramount Theatre in Boston. Joining Josh and Pat were Emmy Award-winning journalist Lesley Stahl and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Judy Collins. EngAGE exceeded its fundraising goal, raising $1.1 million to fund HSL’s health care, communities, research, and teaching efforts. We are deeply grateful to the donors and sponsors of EngAGE whose generous support is making life better for seniors in our community and around the world.
This was Josh’s second time speaking at EngAGE. After hearing him speak at the event in 2014, we knew we needed to invite them both back. This year, Josh spoke about the power of setting goals – like how he helped his mother fulfill her goal of being on movies and TV. He compared it to Hebrew SeniorLife’s Vitalize 360TM program, which pairs seniors with a coach to help older adults set and achieve life goals.
“I was struck by how familiar it was,” Josh said. “It’s like my relationship with my mom. We’re unexpected partners in this project, learning about each other.” When Josh asked his mom what the best part of My Mom on Movies is, Pat replied simply, “To work with my son. I’ve never thanked you – so thank you.”
Reinvention during retirement was a theme also highlighted by Lesley Stahl, who recently authored the book Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting. She recalled the moment of holding her first grandchild: “It was a deep thunderbolt of euphoria. I felt a new expanding sense of love that was different from when I had my own child.”
Lesley pointed out that today’s Baby Boomers are the first to face extra “bonus time” in their lives. She advocates spending that time with grandchildren. “Studies show that we get healthier and happier when we take care of our grandchildren,” she noted.
The evening culminated with a captivating performance by Judy Collins, who interwove hits such as “Both Sides Now” with stories about how music and the arts helped her through good times and bad. At age 77, she joked that, “mentally, physically, spiritually, and politically I’m about 27.” She continued, “Aging is growth. If we’re not open to new ideas, learning, growing, we’re missing out. My life as a working artist has kept me growing.” She also noted that with exercise and meditation, she’s learned how to live with terrible things and wonderful things. “With help, one can get through anything and everything,” she said.
Next year’s EngAGE event will undoubtedly feature more dynamic speakers and news about the latest innovations for aging with purpose and joy. Stay tuned to the event website and Hebrew SeniorLife’s social media accounts for an announcement of a date and speakers!