Friday, November 24, 2006

PBS Frontline Presents "Living Old"

"A powerful and intimate journey into the uncharted territory of Americans living longer than ever -- and what it means for them, their loved ones and our society."

The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) presented, on Tuesday evening, November 21, 2006, a one-hour Frontline documentary entitled "Living Old", prepared by WGBH public television (Boston, MA).

The "Living Old" project is more than a single television broadcast. PBS & WGBH together offer a complete "Living Old" online resource center, found here, to address the issues, emotions, economics, and societal effects arising from prolonged aging -- a clear trend in America due to lifestyle & health care advances.

The online Introduction for the "Living Old" presentation poses the concerns & challenges:

For the first time in American history, "the old old" -- those over 85 -- are now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Medical advances have enabled an unprecedented number of Americans to live longer, healthier lives. But for millions of elderly, living longer can also mean a debilitating physical decline that often requires an immense amount of care. And just as more care is needed, fewer caregivers are available to provide it. In "Living Old," FRONTLINE investigates this national crisis and explores the new realities of aging in America.

"We're on the threshold of the first-ever mass geriatric society," says Dr. Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics from 2002 to 2005. "The bad news is that the price that many people are going to be paying for [an] extra decade of healthy longevity is up to another decade of anything but healthy longevity. … We've not yet begun to face up to what this means in human terms."

Vast numbers of our elderly are living lives that neither they nor their families ever prepared for or imagined. Through the perspectives of the elderly, their families and the doctors and nurses who care for them, "Living Old" explores the modern realities of aging in both urban and rural America. The hour-long documentary takes viewers on an intimate and powerful journey that raises new and troubling concerns about what it really means to grow old.

The "Living Old" resources are expansive, comprehensive, & detailed. Frontline may well have assembled the most current, reliable, and focused set of resources made available on the internet for the general public on advanced aging.

Through the PBS "Living Old" webpages, you can:

  • Watch the full program as an online video on your computer, through QuickTime or Windows Media Player software (and a high-speed internet connection)
  • Read the stories of persons & families featured in the documentary, through links in the presentation's Synopsis
  • Read reliable reference materials, on topics of caregiving, end-of-life decisions, long-term care planning & financing, Alzheimer's disease treatment, elder abuse, and pain management
  • Ponder faith & spiritual issues, including: Bereavement, personal purpose, physical versus mental declines, "life review", nature of life, existence & power of God, death, community connections, & the role of religion
  • Order a DVD or a VHS video recording of the "Living Old" presentation
The television broadcast of "Living Old" was noted nationally in press reviews identified here. Typical of the reactions was that of Rob Owen, in his article dated November 21, 2006, found here in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"The program doesn't offer a cure-all solution, because there isn't one. But it does raise an increasingly important issue, experts share their advice and viewers are left to ponder what living to a ripe old age will mean to them and to their families."

PBS & WGBH have produced a phenomenal effort on a timely topic.

I hope that these organizations continue to maintain & update the "Living Old" website, so that it can remain a reliable resource on these issues far into the future.


After publishing this post, I read the following exchange on the Comments section of the "Living Old" website; and now I am reassured that my wish will come true:

Viewer from NY: I do hope you make the web site resource material available for a long time to come. There's a lot to read and digest. Thank God for public television. You're doing a terrific job. FRONTLINE has always had superior programming. It never lets the viewers down.

FRONTLINE's producers respond: This web site's content - plus the full program in high quality video - will remain available for viewing and reading for years right here on FRONTLINE's site, as part of the public service mission of public broadcasting/media.