Almost Home

The real stories of aging include couples both bonded and divided by disability and nursing assistants doing unsavory work for poverty wages.

Independent Lens
Premiere Date
February 21, 2006
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call

Brad Lichtenstein

Brad Lichtenstein is an award-winning filmmaker and president of 371 Productions. He’s won two Dupont Awards: one for the recent Al Jazeera America series Hard Earned (produced by Kartemquin Films) and another for his 2001 film Ghosts of Attica (produced with Lumiere Productions). His first virtual reality film, Across the Line, about accessing Show more abortion amid hostile protests, premiered at Sundance in 2016. His 2012 movie As Goes Janesville (PBS/Independent Lens) was nominated for a News & Doc Emmy. Penelope, his film about a nursing home that performs The Odyssey from Penelope's point of view, aired on PBS in 2015. 371’s Wisconsin's Mining Standoff, premiered in June 2014 on Al Jazeera America's Fault Lines and streams on Al Jazeera English. He’s the executive producer of "Precious Lives," a radio/podcast and print series about young people and gun violence. 371’s tech projects include BizVizz, a corporate accountability app available for iPhones. 371 has also produced American Reckoning, a feature doc about unsolved civil rights era murders, There are Jews Here, a feature doc about disappearing Jewish communities, and When Claude Got Shot, a feature doc about race and gun violence in America. Brad’s also produced for FRONTLINE and Bill Moyers. His work is supported by Bader Philanthropies, Blue Mountain Center, Creative Capital, the Fetzer Institute, The Forward Fund, ITVS, the Ford, HKH, MacArthur, Nathan Cummings, Retirement Research & Tides Foundations, as well as the IDA and Mary L. Nohl Fellowship. Brad is the founder of docUWM, a documentary program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Show less


Lisa Gildehaus

Lisa Gildehaus began her career at Iowa Public Television in 1992 as a segment associate producer and editor. In 1994, she joined The Duncan Group, a company that produced for The Learning Channel, PBS, and Discovery International. She served as series associate producer for the 13-part international program Mystic Lands. She began her own production Show more company, Riveting Pictures, in 1997 and was producer/director of the documentary Oracle of Omaha, about billionaire Warren Buffett and his legions of followers; the television pilot Kill it and Cook it with Larry, about a Midwestern farmer who traps wild game; and Hell is Other People, the first installment in the Triptych narrative trilogy. In 2001, Gildehaus moved to the Czech Republic to work with filmmakers and artists and to study Eastern European cinematic movements, history, and languages. Almost Home brought her back to local concerns and the disparities of age, race, and socio-economic status in the U.S. Continuing on that theme, she is currently researching The St. Louis American, a documentary about race and class through the eyes of an African-American newspaper staff and their white editor. She also intends to spend time traveling through Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia, researching issues of war, ethnicity, and identity in the region. Show less

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The Film

Almost Home is a feature-length documentary that follows the daily lives of residents and staff at Saint John’s On The Lake, a retirement community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Through a memorable cast of characters, candid interviews, and true-life drama, Almost Home presents real stories of aging — frightening, tender, funny, surprising, and honest.

At Saint John’s, an upscale retirement community with bright, spacious living quarters, residents mingle for afternoon cocktails, choose their own daily schedules, and pursue hobbies like woodworking and playing bridge. But they also struggle with the mundane and often unspoken facts of aging, including disability and dementia, changing relationships, and shrinking independence.

Almost Home offers an inside look at the lives of these residents, their families, and those who care for them, as each adjusts to the challenges of growing older. Almost Home filmmakers Brad Lichtenstein and Lisa Gildehaus introduce couples bonded and divided by disability, children torn between caring for their dependent parents and their own families, nursing assistants doing difficult work for extremely low wages, and visionary nursing home director John George, who is committed to transforming his century-old hospital-like institution into a true home.

Under George’s leadership, Saint John’s On The Lake is replacing its 135-year-old medical model of care (think hospital), with a social one (think home). His goal is to transform the way people see nursing homes — not as institutions of boredom and despair, but as vibrant communities where residents live rich and fulfilling lives. To succeed, he will have to win over skeptical managers, resistant nurses, overworked and underpaid nursing assistants, complacent residents, and often overwhelmed family members.

In a time when the topic of aging is often dismissed or ignored, Almost Home bravely challenges stereotypes and assumptions about seniors to reveal a truthful and thought-provoking portrait of life in a retirement community.