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successful aging defined 

the film

re'flect, successful aging defined, is a new documentary series that highlights six vibrant older adults living life by their terms. This series provides a fresh and inspiring look at aging successfully and insight into the active and engaged world of today’s seniors who are living out loud and defying stereotypes associated with aging. Their stories unfold through interviews, day-in-the-life footage, and archival materials. re'flect first aired on KPBS San Diego in January 2017. It has since aired natonally on PBS in over 40 citites.

The facts


They are defying stereotypes and living life on their terms. 

“I grew up with basically the philosophy of you found a way to get it done.”

At 71 Sharon Russakoff can’t be stopped. Even though she can no longer drive due to a chronic disability she finds a way to get things done. A patron of the arts, Sharon gives back by giving her time throughout San Diego to organizations such as the San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Opera where she is an usher, as well as Cygnet Theatre as a volunteer seamstress. Her love of music extends to her participation in the Pacific Coast Chorale a choir sponsored by the San Diego Public Library who sing throughout the county all year. Sharon is also an active participant at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center (JCC) in La Jolla and enjoys the pool, the gym, speaking engagements and the various classes the JCC offers.

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​Sharon Russakoff 

Richard Williams

“I’m ignoring aging completely…not admitting I’m getting older.”

At 81, Richard Williams is proving that staying active has its benefits. Richard runs nearly 40 races a year and has been a competitive runner for 40 years. His home is filled with medals and awards that he and his wife have accrued throughout the years. Their lifestyle revolves around staying healthy and fit. Their calendar is filled with races they will compete in around the nation up to a year in advance. His passion for life extends to his beloved Coronado where he is an active participant in the Coronado Historical Association and has been named Best Volunteer Tour Guide of the Hotel del Coronado two years in a row.
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“My Father taught me that people don’t want to hear excuses, they want to see results.”

At 71, Fred Davis talks the talk and walks the walk. He says of his retirement that he is working harder now than when he had a job. His daily work is to help serve the underserved. He does this at both the West Center in Downtown San Diego and with his boots on the ground ministry in San Diego. San Diego is home to the fourth largest population of homeless individuals in the US. The third largest for homeless veterans ( Fred is out there on a daily basis providing compassion and assistance to the underserved and underserved senior where he can.

Fred Davis

Carmen Bianchi

“I’ve reached a stage where I feel very confident. I’m not looking for that reinforcement or someone to say yeah you’re doing it right.”

At 69, Carmen Bianchi is a maverick among her peers. Always told she couldn’t do it and wouldn’t get far, Carmen found a way to success both personally and professionally. Raised in a traditional family where the husband worked and the wife took care of the kids, Carmen broke that mold and found a way to have it all. She moved to America from Johannesburg, South Africa when her children were small and helped her first husband grow his business in El Paso, Texas. She went back to school at 40 and participated in creating the largest Family Firm Institute education programs at two universities. Today, Carmen runs her own successful business and still finds time to teach. She also enjoys travelling the world with her family and friends.

William Kelly 
“I think San Diego is probably one of the better places to be right now as a gay person.”


At 69, William “Bill” Kelly is advocating for all seniors. He helped bring the first LGBT senior housing community to San Diego -- only one of three in the country. He knows how important living and being comfortable in your own environment is to the senior and he is working for all seniors to age in place and maintain affordable housing. With the recent passing of Measure M in San Diego to provide more affordable housing in San Diego, Bill is working to help seniors find housing they can afford in their own backyards. Specifically he is working with Community HousingWorks and The Center to help bring awareness to the a new LGBT affirmative senior housing project in North Park. Many LGBT seniors are forced back in the closet as they age because their peers in senior communities are still not accepting of LGBT people. This housing project specifically addresses these issues.

Luis Monge 

“There's no reservations about how you can improve yourself.”


At 77, Luis Monge puts community first. Luis was raised by his grandmother who told him if he ever had property, to use it to grow his own fruits and vegetables. Today his backyard is full of fruit trees such as mangos, guava, lemons, pomegranates and vegetable beds galore which he is happy to share with his community. Perhaps this is a metaphor for Luis’s life because just as he grows an abundant crop of fruits and vegetables, he also helps grow his community. Since his children were little he has participated in their school on the PTA and school board. Even now he participates in his grandchildren’s school, helping to run and grow a community garden on the campus. Beyond his community Luis is a member of the California Senior Legislature, a group of older adults throughout the state who work in tandem with the California Legislature to ensure bills are passed throughout the state that help the senior citizen thrive in California. This year Luis’s bill to bring a specialized license plate that support the California Senior Legislature (a non-profit group) will advance to the California Legislature for a vote.



how do we age successfully?

The 65+ demographic is the fastest growing population in America and people are reaching 85+ in record numbers. This “longevity bonus” is giving older adults the freedom to accomplish more with their lives.

Aging is the new cool, and re’flect aims to spotlight how active older adults are successfully navigating their later years through continued work, volunteering, exercise, and participating in their communities.

We strive to break the stereotype that older adults are no longer active in society. Instead, we highlight how wisdom, compassion, resilience, and optimism contribute to successfully aging and how age-friendly communities are important to society.

From a personal perspective, co-creators and producers, Heidi Rataj and Theresa Hoiles both have first-hand experiences living with older adults. Heidi’s mother, who suffers from peripheral neuropathy, lives with Heidi and her children. Theresa grew up with her grandmother in her home and had a close personal relationship with her very active grandmother. Our goal is to bring hope, encouragement, and continued discussion on how people are aging today.

The mission
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