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About the Video Clip:

Video Clip Synopsis:
An elderly woman confides to a social worker the lonely burden she faces looking after her dementia-affected husband. She doesn’t want to worry their children, who have their own lives to lead.

1min 42sec

Old Age and the Burden of Dementia is an excerpt from the film Out of Sight (15 mins), an episode of the series Ageing in the New Age (7 x 15 mins), produced in 1983.

Out of Sight: The British Medical Journal has described Dementia as the ‘sad quiet epidemic’. It is untrue that we lose our minds with age. But in Australia one in four people aged over 81 years has some form of dementia.

Each program in this series deals with one of a number of issues: approaches to retirement; community support systems that foster independence; living on a pension; ways the elderly are still contributing to the community; the position of elders in different cultural traditions; the problem of dementia; and managing financial investments.

Ageing in the New Age: With an ageing population, the world is approaching a crisis and community debate is growing on the issues raised by ageing populations. Each program in this series of seven films deals with one of those issues: approaches to retirement, community support systems that foster independence, living on a pension, ways the elderly are still contributing to the community, the position of elders in different cultural traditions, the problem of dementia and managing financial investments. They are generally optimistic and uplifting programs, full of innovative ideas and inspiration.

Ageing in the New Age was produced by Film Australia with the assistance of AMP Society.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: English
Year: 11-12
Theme: Health Work

Key Concepts

Dementia; Health; Identity; Values

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:English course framework (11-12) — responding critically and analytically to texts
NSW:English Stage 6: Close study of text, Texts and society
NT:English Stage 1 Texts and contexts
Qld:English senior syllabus: Texts in their contexts; textual features; Constructedness of texts
SA:English Stage 1 Texts and contexts
Tas:Senior Secondary English: Ideas and issues strand; Texts and contexts strand; Applications strand
Vic:English Language: Unit 3 — Language in society; Unit 4 — Language in use
WA:English Year 11 — Print texts (non fiction), Non-print texts
English Year 12 — Print texts (non-fiction), Non-print texts

Context / Background Information

In almost all Westernised societies, life expectancy is increasing. Although women continue to outlive men, many people of both sexes now live well into their eighties or beyond. This increasingly aged population brings with it an increase in the problems associated with old age. One such problem is dementia.

Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in mental functioning.

The early symptoms of dementia are subtle and vary for each person and from day-to-day. Symptoms gradually get worse. Common symptoms include:

  • Memory problems, especially for recent events (long-term memory usually remains in the early stages).
  • Language and speech difficulties.
  • Confusion, getting lost.
  • Personality changes and behaviour changes.
  • Apathy and withdrawal.
  • Loss of ability to do familiar tasks.

Although it is more common in older people, people as young as 40 can get Alzheimer's disease, a common form of dementia. One in four people aged over 85 years in Australia has some form of dementia.

Discussion Pointers

  1. What does the video clip show?
  2. What is ‘dementia’?
  3. Why is dementia so hard on the interviewee?
  4. What has happened to her husband’s mind, his personality and his identity?
  5. What values and qualities can you see in this woman? Consider what she does, her attitudes to her husband, her attitude to her daughters, etc.
  6. The video clip shows a ‘talking head’ only. How does the filmmaker try to vary the image presented? How successful is this? Can you suggest other things that could have been done?
  7. What is the message of this video clip?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Dementia raises the issue of identity — who we are, what makes us who we are, and how that can change. Watch the film Charley, based on the story ‘Flowers For Algernon’ by Daniel Keyes. In this film we see a rapid transformation of Charley’s identity. While the film is science fiction and is based on the transformation of Charley into a more intelligent person, the issues it raises about identity also apply to the degeneration of a personality and identity. Write a review of this film that incorporates your awareness of issues relating to dementia.

Modules That Use This Clip

Science Year 9-10, English Year 11-12, English Year 9-10