- By Emily Gurnon
Juli Vizza saw something happening in her family, and she knew they were not alone.
A few years ago, Vizza, 44, witnessed her mother and aunt struggling with the caregiving of her grandparents, Joe and Phyllis Sabatini.
Joe, then 90, and Phyllis, 89, lived with Vizza’s aunt and uncle and their 9-year-old daughter in California. Phyllis saw how their mounting health issues were impacting everyone “from 9 to 90.” She no longer wanted to be a burden on her daughter, so she decided to move back to the East Coast and into assisted living.
But that meant leaving behind Joe, her husband of 64 years.
Now It’s Personal
Vizza had told the stories of others for years as an award-winning film producer. She asked director Alicia Dwyer if she would help her make a film about her own family.
The result is Nine to Ninety, a co-production of Nine to Ninety LLC and Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which will begin airing on PBS stations in January. Check this list to see if your local station will air it or watch the first episode now on video.pbs.org.
The Heart of the Story
Vizza and Dwyer initially thought that the Sabatinis’ daughters — as the main caregivers — would be the focus of the film. But grandmother Phyllis soon emerged as the story’s heart.
“She was really trying to make a very complicated decision and she was doing so with grace,” Dwyer said.
The filmmakers hope the documentary will encourage other families to have difficult, but necessary conversations about end-of-life care. They want others to ask, as the Sabatini family does: “What does it take to live, love and die with dignity and grace in the modern age?”
Watch the Nine to Ninety trailer below. For more information about the issues of end-of-life care, how to host a screening or how to talk to your family members, visit the film’s website.