Higher Education

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Film Clips, Chapter 7

Part I

Don’t Grow Old

BBC Documentary/Educational TV, 58:35

Just how flexible is age? More biological than sociological, this documentary will appeal to those who are wondering whether or not we can live longer and stay healthy. The documentary reviews the research on trendy ideas about how not to age: calorie restriction (which only works if you have the right genetic make-up and are prepared to live with the misery of hunger for the rest of your days!); battling oxidative stress through rejuvenating anti-oxidants (new research does not supporting it or the multi-million dollar anti-oxidant industry); shortening telomeres that slow and eventually prevent cell division (not found in progeria patients who have abnormal proteins, not shortening telomeres); and winning the genetic lottery. Is aging well a result of ethnicity or lifestyle? Does attitude and treatment make a difference? (It does!)

This film illustrates many of the infirmaries mentioned in “Health in Old Age” (Chappell, pp. 132–133) and the changes in how we define old age as longevity rates change (pp. 126–127, 134). It can also be used to compare the aging profiles of different subcultural groups (pp. 127–130). Beyond the text, this documentary highlights the social concerns and ideologies surrounding aging today.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Along with its main theme of examining the research on anti-aging treatments, this documentary illustrates the role of family and dependency in the aging process. Elaborate, with references to the text material, on this as well.
  2. Don’t Grow Old depicts the quest of many to “find a cure for old age.” What have been the social consequences of this quest, in terms of how we view aging and marketing anti-aging treatments? How are the elderly in Canada experiencing ageism because of these trends?
  3. What are you willing to do to address the aging process as you grow older?

Part II

The Boomer Revolution

CBC Doc Zone, 45:15

The Boomer Revolution considers the “grey tsunami” of aging Baby Boomers from a number of angles, including the demographic trend itself (Chappell, pp. 126–127). Apart from other documentaries included for this chapter, it focuses on the macro-sociological and economic effects of boomer aging in Canadian society. The micro-level of adjusting retirement plans (pp. 126–131) and consumer spending on adult children and grandchildren is also illustrated here. Aging boomers face a unique juxtaposition of debt ratios that are reaching new highs, combined with huge wealth and potential inheritances as their “old old” (p. 134) parents die, and a potential longevity unheard of in past centuries (pp. 138–139). How will it all be resolved?

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. How are boomers planning for old age and retirement according to The Boomer Revolution? Are these plans feasible?
  2. Critics often insist that our “grey tsunami” will overwhelm Canadians in terms of financial and care-taking burdens (pp. 132–135). Do you agree? What points from this documentary can you use to argue for and against this proposition?
  3. How likely is it that the boomers you know will fall into the same patterns of aging and retirement (pp. 127–128) that are predicted in this documentary? Can you see anything different happening, given their specific locale and region?

Part III

Laura Carstensen: Older People Are Happier

TEDx Women, 11:39

Carstensen provides an excellent overview of social and cultural reasons for the trend to an aging population (Chappell, pp. 126127). Unlike many analysts who dwell on the social disutilities of aging, she points out its social benefits. Her thesis is that the contentment and happiness of elders, which develops in individuals over time, extends to make families and communities happier (pp. 130–135). One slide cites her “socioemotional selectivity theory,” which some students can use in further investigations.

Jane Fonda: Life’s Third Act

TEDxWomen, 11:20

Jane Fonda on aging—among those of us over 50, who would have thought? Fonda refers to how women predominate in the “longevity revolution” (pp. 126–127) and discusses what it is like to be “inside oldness.” She argues that aging is one-third genetic, two-thirds malleable and that we have better health, less stress, more happiness, et cetera. We need to look at aging as a potential. To start living the “third act” of life, most aging persons do a life review and free themselves from the past. Like other speakers in this series, Fonda elaborates on various ways that a positive attitude trumps aging.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Identify the sociological research cited in the text that supports Carstensen’s and Fonda’s theses that “older people are happier” and the “third act” has the potential to be the best for aging individuals.
  2. How do these ideas confirm or deny our cultural discourses around aging in Canada?
  3. How applicable are these ideas to the lives of the “young elderly” and “old old” (pp. 133–134) who you know?