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Old Age and the Burden of Dementia

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.
Year of production - 1983
Duration - 1min 42sec
Tags - ageing, health, identity, interviews, see all tags


Old Age and the Burden of Dementia

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About the Video Clip


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 × 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.

Curriculum Focus


This digital resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
P.1 A student demonstrates understanding of the relationships between composer, responder, text and context.
P.6 A student engages with a wide range of texts to develop a considered and informed personal response.
P.7 A student selects appropriate language forms and features, and structures of texts to explore and express ideas and values.
P.8 A student articulates and represents own ideas in critical, interpretive and imaginative texts.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

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

Classroom Activities

  1. Discuss and write responses to the following:
    1. Define ‘dementia’ and ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ in your own words then check using a dictionary.
    2. Give reasons why dementia is so hard on the interviewee.
    3. Describe what has happened to her husband’s mind, his personality, and his identity using examples from the video clip.
    4. How does she describe her fears and what she does?
    5. Describe the values and qualities you see in this woman. Consider what she does, her attitudes to her husband, her attitude to her daughters, etc.
  2. The video clip shows a ‘talking head’ only.
    1. List the techniques the filmmaker uses to try to vary the image presented. For example, zooming in to a close up.
    2. Suggest other things that could have been done to vary the image presented.
    3. In a 50-word summary write the audience, purpose and message(s) of this video clip
  3. Australia’s society is ageing. The number of dementia sufferers will continue to increase.
    1. Discuss ways how the ageing and ageing sick and their carers can be helped. Do you think that society ‘owes’ these people?
    2. Write a 500-word letter to the editor, media article or speech presenting your point of view on this issue. Remember to include facts and examples.

Literacy Activity: Focus= Viewing / Interpreting

  1. The woman in this clip cares for her husband who has dementia. What burdens does her job as carer bring? (2 marks)
  2. Recount the sad but somewhat humorous story about her husband’s activity in the garden. What is sad about this situation? What makes the image amusing? (2 marks)
  3. Why do you think we only have on interview in this clip? (1 mark)

Further Resources


Go to Alzheimers Australia