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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: Science
Year: 9-10
Strand: Biological science – the nervous system
Theme: Science Work

Key Concepts

The parts of the brain and how memory works

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Science – life and living
NSW:Science 4.8.4, 5.8.4
NT:Science cc 4.2, Life and living
Qld:Science: Life and living 5.1
SA:Science: Life systems (no examples)
Tas:World Futures – understanding the natural and constructed world Standard 4
Vic:Biological Science 5.3, 6.3
WA:Science – Life and living

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

Discuss what students know about dementia and a related disease such as Alzheimer’s disease.

What is meant by ‘the ageing population’.

What other diseases might become more common simply because the population is ageing?

Think about how people with dementia would have been cared for in past generations. How does current family structure affect how the elderly are cared for?

How do you think carers need to be cared for?

Suggested Classroom Activities

Before watching the video clip students should brainstorm all they know about memory. Try to define the difference between short-term and long-term memory. What are your earliest memories? What do you find easy to remember and what is hard to remember? Discuss the difference between remembering and learning. Look up the meanings of the following words: nerve, neuron, hemisphere, cortex. Activities:
  1. Research the structure of nerves and how they work.
  2. Set up a memory tray by placing ten different items on a tray and covering them with a cloth. Take off the cloth for ten seconds and ask your friend to name as many items as they can and also to describe them. Then experiment with reducing the time they can see the items or increasing the number of items. Can you measure memory?
  3. People are quite good at remembering faces without trying. Get 20 photos of different faces or get them from magazines. Try to get faces of a similar size and either all black and white or all colour. Show ten of the photos to a friend for about half a second each. Then show them all 20 photos and ask them to pick out the original 10 photos. The results are usually quite accurate.
  4. Sensory memory is a form of very short term memory that gives you an awareness of where you are in space in relation to nearby objects. Place an object on the table in front of you. Close your eyes and pick up the object straight away. Repeat, but this time, close you eyes and count to ten before picking up the object. Which was easier?
  5. Interview an older person and ask them about their earliest memories.

Modules That Use This Clip

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