As the world evolves, concepts of humanity and health are also fluid and changing. The same is true for the concept of age. With the many changes in medical science today, people are living longer than ever before, particularly in countries where resources and access to medical facilities are unrestricted. The resulting change in the social dynamic is that people live longer and remain healthier and more active for longer. As a result, they way in which age is portrayed in the media, as well as elder care, work and retirement, and public policy have significantly changed over the last half a century or so.
There has been a significant change in media portrayals of age. Even in the recent past, main characters in films and television shows have been young and good looking, and the subject matter has generally concerned the lives and concerns faced by the younger age groups. In television, the sitcom popularly portrayed young parents with children in the home, for example. If older people made part of this fare, it was generally as comic relief rather than a serious or even authentic portrayal of the challenges faced at this stage of life. In film, the young adventurer or romantic was the subject matter most popularly portrayed.
Increasingly, however, this norm has changed to portray the older adult at the later stages of life and how this stage can be both challenging and rewarding. While many portrayals of the elderly remain as images of frailty, there have been an increasing portrayal of older people as capable and facing life with courage while interacting with others in an effective way. One good example of an actress who has effectively discarded all norms of old age is Judi Dench. Her career, even and especially in older age, has included roles as diverse as that of an old woman who started a new romance to an ethereal spirit being to a powerful leadership type in the recent James Bond films. Indeed, Dame Dench's career could be regarded as the epitome of the changes that have been seen in the general views of age and the aging process. She proves that graceful and energetic aging is possible. This has also been proven by other older women in prominent positions such as politics. Margaret Thatcher and the Queen are examples who come readily to mind, with Meryl Streep being another actress whose talent has been honed by time in such a way that she is now one of the most prominent female figures of the silver screen.
The way in which the media portrays the older generation has an influence on the general conception of age and aging in society today. The horror of the inevitable physical decline of old age has been gradually replaced by a sense that old age means wisdom, freedom, and a body that will be strong enough to still enjoy these things. This is clear in the way many older people are enjoying their lives after retirement. Many go on world trips, for example, or sell their homes to indulge in a lifelong dream such as travel or a luxury item such as a car or a boat. Increasingly, old age is being seen as a reward for a lifetime's work rather than a punishment for being alive so long.
Increasingly, medical science is making the dream of "eternal youth" come true. New discoveries, such as eating more healthy foods or taking certain vitamins, have resulted in a better aging process for many millions of people. This has also enabled more older people to stay at their homes for longer, without the need for assisted living facilities or entering a home for the elderly. While there are still many in such situations, those who are in fact in dire need of such facilities are declining. Healthier living while longer is creating the opportunity for a better aging process. This has then also gradually changed the face of elder care in the eyes of general society and in the fact of how care is administered.
Elder care is a complex issue, that has been…