The often heart-wrenching challenges of aging will be the focus of a daylong summit and several documentaries featured during the 2013 Camden International Film Festival, which runs Thursday through Sunday.

Leaders in the social service and health care fields are expected to gather at the invitation-only summit to discuss how documentary films can help shed light on aging issues for seniors, their families and their communities.

The summit is a first-time effort to broaden the festival’s impact beyond the annual weekend event and to engage in what’s happening across Maine all year round, said Ben Fowlie, festival founder and executive director.

“It’s an emotionally charged subject and it’s almost taboo to talk about,” Fowlie said. “Every person, every family is going to have to deal with it in some way. And these are stories that must be told with honesty, sensitivity and sincerity.”

Fowlie noted the ongoing series, “The Challenge of Our Age,” about Maine’s rapidly growing senior population, which is being published by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, a festival sponsor.

“It seemed like an interesting tie-in for us,” Fowlie said. “It’s an opportunity to harness the power of documentary film to expand awareness.”

Maine’s population is the oldest in the nation. Its median age — 43.5 years — is the highest in the United States, in part because the state also has a dwindling younger population, according to the U.S. Census. The state’s proportion of people age 65 and older — 17 percent — is second only to Florida’s 18.2 percent.

By 2030, more than 25 percent of Mainers will be 65 or older, putting Maine on the crest of a worldwide aging trend that’s already contributing to economic, social and political instability across the globe.

Nearly one in seven Maine seniors will be claimed by Alzheimer’s. Between now and 2020, Alzheimer’s cases in Maine are expected to increase 43 percent, from 37,000 to 53,000, according to the Alzheimer’s Association Maine Chapter.

Among dozens of films that will be screened this weekend, three features and several shorts focus on topics such as Alzheimer’s, nursing homes and the death process, Fowlie said.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, the festival will screen “The Genius of Marian,” a film by Anna Fitch and Banker White about his mother’s slow decline after she was diagnosed at age 60 with Alzheimer’s, a disease that also took her mother.

“Last Dreams,” a Danish film by Estephan Wagner, follows three women through the last months of their lives as they grapple with solitude, reconciliation and love during the process of saying goodbye. It will screen at 4 p.m. Friday.

“The Last Station,” a Chilean and German film by Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara, takes place in nursing homes and exposes the loneliness and abandonment that many seniors face in the final stage of life. It will screen at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

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Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or

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