The Wisdom of Living in the Present, According to My 107-Year-Old Best Friend


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The Wisdom of Living in the Present, According to My 107-Year-Old Best Friend

Nov. 14, 2023, 5:01 a.m. ET
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By Raquel Sancinetti

Ms. Sancinetti is a filmmaker and animator.

Growing up, I was very close to my grandmother. I’ve always admired the wisdom and humor of my elders, and she instilled in me a profound appreciation for their company. Unlike the prevalent notion that aging is negative, my perspective on growing old — very old — was different.

When I emigrated to Canada from Brazil in 2010, I was no longer in regular contact with the seniors I loved so much. Soon after, I decided to make a documentary exploring aging and the experiences of women. A friend of mine, who used to teach fitness courses at a retirement home, introduced me to Madeleine. It was love at first sight. I cannot explain how we could feel so close to each other despite our substantial differences in age and backgrounds.

When I met her in March 2017, she was 102 years old. She was in good health and completely autonomous, but she refused to leave the house. She had decided, at the age of 100, that she would stay in the house and save her energy for her daily activities. She would tell me, “You cannot understand, not because you are not intelligent, but because you are simply not old enough to understand.”

Even as we became closer friends, her determination to remain indoors and live solely in the present didn’t waver. We frequently discussed going on a road trip, so I decided to bring her out in the only way I could: through animation. This short documentary was completed when Madeleine was 107 years old, and I consider myself very fortunate to have known her.

Raquel Sancinetti is a Brazilian-Canadian filmmaker based in Montreal.

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