Almost Home

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

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
February 21, 2006
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
Brad Lichtenstein Headshot

Brad Lichtenstein

Brad Lichtenstein is a filmmaker, virtual reality storyteller, radio producer, and founder of 371 Productions. He has been nominated for two Emmys and won two DuPonts and a Peabody. Recent films include the PBS FRONTLINE documentary American Reckoning (with Yoruba Richen) and the Participant documentary Messwood (with Emily Kuester). When Claude Got Shot Show more is his third film for Independent Lens. 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

We fund untold stories for public media.

Learn more about funding opportunities with ITVS.

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.