The Art of Presence

THE ART OF PRESENCE delves into how mindfulness practice has been incorporated into the lives of elders through meditation and mindfulness-based elder care. This film reveals how "paying attention, in the moment" brings relief to those coping with age related changes along their journey in later life. It serves as a reminder that no matter what we experienced in the past, or how uncertain the future is, what we have is now-the ability to stay in the present while experiencing pain or serving a person who is aging or dying, benefits the self and care partner alike.

In learning from elders and presenting the effective integration of these practices and principals into the residential care homes such as AgeSong and The Redwoods elder communities, THE ART OF PRESENCE seeks to offer and lift up meditative practices as viable tools for healthy aging and compassionate care giving.


Discussion Guide*

This guide is designed to help foster a discussion about the value of mindfulness practices toward healthy aging and caregiving.


  • Aging, meditation and the necessity of addressing the spiritual and psychological needs of the elderly.
  • The affects of meditation on the brain.
  • Care partners and the use of mindful presence in care giving.

Discussion Questions

Dr. Shabahangi says that "mindfulness in some ways is a reminder to make that kind of a deep connection with another human being, not just for the sake of the person that I care for, but also for my own sake."

  • What do you think he means by this?
  • Do you agree or disagree and why?

    Dr. Mendius, a neurologist, speaks about research done on long-term meditators.

    • What does meditation appear to protect against in aging brains?
    • What does this mean in terms of healthy aging?

    What kind of assistance did meditation group member, Doris find most valuable, from the meditation group, when her daughter died?

    • What is unique about this kind of support?
    • If you were to experience the loss of a loved one, what would be helpful to you during this time of need?

    How does Betty (the meditation group member in the wheelchair) describe how meditation has helped her through her pain?

    • How can the meditation practice of bringing the attention to your breath be soothe?
    • When you experience pain, what helps you to ease your pain?

    Dr. Shabahangi talks about the importance of the spiritual and psychological needs of a person in their last years of life.

    • How can a care provider offer this kind of support?
    • What role does mindfulness have in this kind of care?

    What are the specific mindful ways that care partner Sushi Frausto suggests in assisting the elderly? What does she mean by, "Paying attention in the moment conscientiously, openly"?

    • What are some of the ways to achieve this while being with the elderly?
    • What is your experience with care giving?

    Meditation group leader, Martha deBarros says, "I think that some part of me had this idea of a group of old people..."

    • What are common cultural values around aging?
    •  How are elders treated in our society?
    • What is empowering, what is disempowering?
    • What more can we do support the transition of aging and dying?


    Partner Organizations 

    THE ART OF PRESENCE was created in partnership with these community organizations:

    AgeSong Senior Communities

    • The AgeSong model of care was inspired by the diverse backgrounds of its founders - three brothers who combined their respective expertise in psychology, theology, and law into a passion for changing the vision of elder care. They were later joined by their sister, and AgeSong grew to attract leading professionals in the field of aging. The gero-wellness program is a model of process-oriented, existential training for many universities here and abroad. Through this program, interns join with residents to create a truly intergenerational exchange.
    • AgeSong at Hayes Valley is in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood. Forgetfulness care, specialized behavioral and emotional care, hospice, and transitional care coordination all are available to residents of this 47-bed community offers specialized care for high needs assisted living, including an innovative forgetfulness care (what others call dementia or Alzheimer's disease) and behavioral health program. AgeSong at Laguna Grove also in Hayes Valley offers specialized care for high needs assisted living, including an innovative forgetfulness care and behavioral health program, hospice, and transitional care coordination.

    The Redwoods
    Independent and Residential Living Apartments

    • The mission of The Redwoods is to maintain a creative, affordable community that promotes good health, well-being and security for a diverse group of elders. Offering a unique lifestyle for seniors in one of California's most exquisite settings, The Redwoods is nestled between Mt. Tamalpais and Richardson Bay in the town of Mill Valley, just minutes north of San Francisco.

    San Francisco Zen Center

    • The vision and mission of the San Francisco Zen Center is to "make accessible and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha." This practice embraces the insight that "all beings are Buddha, and that sitting in meditation is itself the realization of Buddha nature, or enlightenment." The Zen Center has three practice places: 
      City Center, in San Francisco; Green Gulch Farm, in Marin County; and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the Ventana Wilderness inland from Big Sur. These three practice centers offer daily meditation, retreats, classes, lectures, and workshops. The Zen Centers welcome a diverse population of students, visitors, lay people, priests, and monks guided by teachers who follow in Suzuki Roshi's style. The Zen Center also has community outreach programs helping prisoners, the homeless, and those in recovery; protecting the environment; and working for peace.


    Facts & Resources


    • The population 65 and over will increase from 35 million in 2000 to 40 million in 2010 (a 15% increase) and then to 55 million in 2020 (a 36% increase for that decade).
    • The 85+ population is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2000 to 5.7 million in 2010 (a 36% increase) and then to 6.6 million in 2020 (a 15% increase for that decade).
    • The growth of the population age 65 and over affects many aspects of our society, challenging policymakers, families, businesses, and health care providers, among others, to meet the needs of aging individuals.
    • The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population age 85 and over could grow from 5.7 million in 2008 to 19 million by 2050. Some researchers predict that death rates at older ages will decline more rapidly than is reflected in the U.S. Census Bureau's projections, which could lead to faster growth of this population.


    Research and Care

    • UCSF Memory and Aging Center
      UCSF Memory and Aging Center is to provide the highest quality of care for individuals with cognitive problems, to conduct research on causes and cures for degenerative brain diseases, and to educate health professionals, patients and their families.
    • Institute on Aging
      Institute on Aging (IOA) is a community-based, non-profit organization in San Francisco, Marin, and the Peninsula. IOA's service mission is to enhance the quality of life for our diverse community of adults as they age. IOA's services enable elders in the San Francisco Bay Area to maintain their health, well-being, independence, and participation in the community.
    • National Institute on Aging
      National Institute on Aging (NIA) leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. NIA provides leadership in aging research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs relevant to aging and older people.

    Buddhist Teaching Resources

    • Metta Programs
      Metta means loving kindness. Metta Programs offers teachings to support a life that is balanced, wakeful and compassionate.

    Caregiving Resources

    • Today's Caregiver
      Provides online support and guidance for family and professional caregivers.
    • Family Caregiver Alliance
      FCA has developed a wide array of services and publications based on caregiver needs and offers programs at local, state, and national levels. Often described as a "one-stop shopping center for caregivers."


    Meet the Filmmakers


    FRANCIE BEDINGER: In addition to my production life as a Casting Director and Founder of, I am expanding into the world of Gerontology by becoming a Gerontologist. This is the study of Aging where we are all headed, some of us gracefully, some of us, not so. In this emerging field I intend to help to bridge the inter-generational gap by creating documentary films and programs that reunite us with our communities of family, however you define them, inclusive of the young as well as the old.

    MARIO GENEL: Raised in the city of Tijuana, Mexico, Mario moved in the year of 2007 to the artsy city of San Francisco to work on a B.A. in Cinema and a minor in Marketing. Mario highly enjoys the art of soccer, the joy of tennis, going to different art museums in the city, hanging out with friends, and enjoying college. He worked on a social justice short film through his internship at BAYCAT in hunter's point about a little foster girl who is stuck between staying there or leaving with her mother. Mario loves saving money and taking an adventure trip somewhere, and learning from different cultures. Mario's passion from film was born when he wrote a short story for a contest in Junior High School and received an honorific mention. He knew that writing was not going to be enough because the visuals were taken out of context. Mario decided to study in the US where the film industry offers more opportunities, and begin a new adventure in his life. Mario intends to work in films about suspense, love, drama, and of course in documentaries that can impact a social change.


    KRISTIAN LOERA: I am a filmmaker who loves to direct and produce films that inspire people to create change in society. Ever since my mom gave me my first video camera at the age of fourteen, making movies has become my passion. The first movie that I made was a mix of different genres where I used my family members as the cast. I continued using my family as the main characters in these early films and realized that their personal stories were far more interesting than all the twisted stories and characters I was trying to create. This discovery led me into the world of documentaries, which has become my favorite genre. I find that the real human stories provide the most powerful narratives for creating an inspiring film. I have been living in the SF Bay Area since 2002 and received my Associates Degree in Film and TV from Solano Community College in Fairfield, CA. Also I have a BA in Cinema from SFSU with an emphasis in producing and directing films. This documentary is an opportunity for me to explore aging, a theme that I have a special interest in since many of the people I know and care for are elders. This film also explores meditation, a great tool that I consider useful for people to connect with their inner selves and to live healthier lives. My future plans include working in the film Industry, produce documentaries, and teaching cinema to younger generations. Email: kristianloera(a)

    ANDRÉS RICO is an aspiring journalist and filmmaker from Sonoma, California who seeks to tell human stories otherwise overlooked. He has a deep commitment to human rights and social justice, and along with The Middle Way worked on another documentary, En el salón de las promesas released in May 2011 depicting the effects of poverty and gang violence on El Salvador's public education system. Rico currently resides in San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco with a B.A. in Journalism and Cinema.


    *The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute