THORNWOOD, N.Y. -- Thornwood resident Michael Villucci, who is enrolled in the cinema studies program at New York University, spent last summer at the Morningside Rehabilitation Center in the Bronx, interviewing several senior residents about their lives, their histories, cherished memories and their families.
What Villucci, 19, ultimately created was a set of highly personal video biographies of two of the center’s residents. The first video features a woman who spent a considerable amount of time working as an activist in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The second video showcases a resident who this year celebrated her 100th birthday, reflecting on a century of memories.
“I found great pleasure in bonding with the patients; they were very grateful that they were able to tell me their stories, and I loved to hear them,” Villucci says. “I made the videos for them and for their families.”
The more he interviewed his subject, the more her story began to reveal itself as historically important. “As a person this project helped me to grow; I saw how people overcame adversity. It really is incredible what a person can accomplish in a lifetime.”
Documenting the lives of seniors has a personal connection for Villucci. “When I was 11 years old, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Though her memory slowly decayed over the next eight years, I still loved her and began to grow closer to her,” he said.
“My grandmother started to get sicker, and this coincided with the opportunity from Morningside Rehabilitation Center to produce video biographies for patients with memory problems.”
To prepare for the video project, Villucci read extensively about video biographies and how they should follow a certain format.
“Through my production of the videos, I have come to believe that making video biographies is extremely important, not only for the patient, but also for their families. I received nothing but cooperation and support from the patients’ families and tried to make the videos as much for them as I was for the patient.”