Iowa Alumni Magazine | January 2017 | People

Dreams from our Elders

By Shelbi Thomas
Skyler Knutzen, UI student filmmaker and photographer.

What do you want to do when you get older? A question often posed to children, it’s rarely asked to adults beyond college age.

Skyler Knutzen inquired anyway. Last semester, the UI student filmmaker and photographer headed to downtown Iowa City to ask senior citizens about their hopes and dreams. Says the junior cinema major from Pleasant Hill, Iowa: “They’d always laugh and say, ‘I already am old,’ but then they’d open up about their lives.”

Knutzen collected their first names and answers and took their portraits as part of his Years Young Project, which appeared this past fall on the front page of the Des Moines Register’s “Iowa Life” section. He first initiated conversation with Fritz Coester, a 95-year-old physics professor from Switzerland who has taught at the UI since 1947 and wants to drive “when he gets older.” Says Knutzen: “Everyone has an interesting story to tell, and most people are thrilled that someone wants to know about them and their lives.”