“Living Old” is a PBS Frontline Documentary released in 2006 to look at the challenges the older population face in the United States as they grow older. The documentary suggests that the population of oldest-old people beyond 85 years is the fastest growing section of the American population. As a result, the condition creates a higher demand for medical care, thus draining the United States’ health care system. The documentary addresses the ethical questions related Documentary to modern technological advances that prolong life beyond the point when life seems worth living. Such technologies bring the issues of the oldest-old and concerns surrounding the process of death and dying with limited opportunities for assisted suicide and euthanasia. However, women play a significant role in providing care for the older population in the care system. As a result, this critical analysis of “Living Old” PBS Frontline Documentary will investigate the issues of the oldest-old population, the role of women in the care system, and concerns surrounding the process of death and dying.
Issues of the Oldest-Old
The United States records approximately 35 million elderly people, “the old, old.” The old, old include people living beyond 85 years. The film depicts this population as the fastest growing section of the American population (Frontline, 2006). These people live longer lives because medical advances support Americans to pursue healthier lives. However, longer life among the older population comes with adverse health conditions and physical challenges. For example, older people are associated with deteriorating mental and physical health, unavoidable loss of some functions, high dependence on others, and perceiving oneself as a burden to the family and caregivers. According to Binstock et al. (2011), older people suffer from terminal and chronic diseases like cancer. The demand for care in older people’s systems is rising, yet the number of caregivers and nurses is diminishing. Families of this aging population are dispersed more than ever, and the situation is overburdening the healthcare system. As a result, m of healthcare professionals claim that the situation is likely to cause a major crisis in healthcare service delivery. Based on the documentary, older people sit in wheelchairs with uncontrollable Parkinson-like signs and symptoms (Frontline, 2006). Others have Alzheimer’s disease and loss of vision and limbs because of diabetic conditions.
The Role of Women and the Ethnic Issues
Gender and ethnic groups significantly affect the issues revolving around the aging process. The United States projects a double standard of the aging process based on race and gender. The most affected by the process of death and dying include single women, divorced older women, and widowed (Hillier & Barrow, 2014). However, middle-aged boomer women have better financial status, which makes their health better than poor women’s. The current American social and economic crisis severely impacts aged women and the services rendered to them. This situation exacerbates the aging process discrimination based on gender. Older people are at highly vulnerable to poverty than the general population. However, women above 65 years have a higher rate of 22% of being poor than men (Hillier & Barrow, 2014). For example, the documentary shows more women in nursing homes than men. Among these women, older women of color are more vulnerable to poverty and poor health conditions than white women (Frontline, 2006).
Issues around the Process of Death and Dying
The process of death and dying includes complex issues related to decisions and health conditions the elderly go through. The lifespan is prolonged, but the demeaning quality of life comes with severe situations. For example, Rose Chanes, a 96 years old woman in life-supporting systems. Chanes says she neither sees nor hears, thus terming it as a curse rather than a blessing. Living with people over 85 years older creates a severe emotional toll on the elderly and their families. On the other hand, Estelle Strongin claims her son asked her to sign a termination contract because of the hopeless situation (Frontline, 2006). Considering patients with terminal illnesses and conditions such as cancer, the pain and suffering surpass the dignity of living. At this level, patients should be allowed to choose death rather than despair and pain. Justice demands that all cases be treated alike. According to Hillier & Barrow (2014), a competent and terminally ill patient can ask for death assistance by refusing to increase the burden of life-sustaining treatments. Physician-assisted suicide promotes quality of life and a patient’s sense of autonomy. Incapacitated individuals without hope of recovery should be allowed to seek physician-assisted suicide. In most cases, patients suffering from terminal illnesses like cancer, neurological disease, and end-organ failure spend the rest of their lives in life-supporting machines, intensive care units, or chemotherapies that reduce their quality of life (Goligher et al., 2017). The essence of living is pursuing a quality life where one can engage in daily activities such as working, vacations, sporting, and traveling. The importance of life is happiness; the presence of an individual becomes pathetic when in pain. Individuals should be permitted to settle on a choice concerning their destiny, particularly on their death beds.
Conclusively, the Living Old documentary series is increasing public awareness of the issues revolving around the aging process, the elderly, and caregivers. Understanding these concepts is essential in the healthcare system because as the older population undergoes dynamics of living longer, it increases their years of staying with a disability, poor health, and risk for chronic conditions/diseases. Because of this challenge, there is a need for a better solution to this care crisis resulting in increasing the lifespan of people beyond 85 years. Specifically, there is a need to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia during this stage of life. Therefore, this creates a public discussion to examine the possibility and ethical considerations related to older people’s freedom of choosing when and how to end life.
Binstock, R. H., George, L. K., Cutler, S. J., Hendricks, J., & Schulz, J. H. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook of aging and the social sciences. Elsevier. https://e-l.unifi.it/pluginfile.php/845667/mod_resource/content/1/Kohli%2BArza%20HASS%202011%20Pensioni.pdf
Frontline, (2006). Living Old. PBS. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/documentary/livingold/
Goligher, E. C., Ely, E. W., Sulmasy, D. P., Bakker, J., Raphael, J., Volandes, A. E., … & Downar, J. (2017). Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in the intensive care unit: a dialogue on core ethical issues. Critical care medicine, 45(2), 149.
Hillier, S. M., & Barrow, G. M. (2014). Aging, the individual, and society. Cengage learning. https://books.google.cz/books?hl=en&lr=&id=t-LNAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Hillier+%26+Barrow+textbook+&ots=8jVS5DBJXs&sig=5TCSUSy0QIfmVaOOvN-JR4Ihtq4&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Hillier%20%26%20Barrow%20textbook&f=fal