Health related quality of life, sociological theories and ageism are all important topics to gerontological nursing. By relating these different aspects of gerontology to a popular movie, nursing skills can be developed and theories can be easier to understand. To help this nursing student improve on her knowledge of theories, she will relate a movie she watched, Terms of Endearment, to different nursing theories and ageism.
Movie Review: Terms of Endearment
Movies are a form of entertainment almost anyone can enjoy and are often more than just basic enjoyment. Movies are used to spark interest in topics and discuss tough issues. In this review, this nurse will discuss the movie Terms of Endearment and how it relates to different theories. She will also include evidence of ageism and a reflection on the importance of the film.
“Terms of Endearment” was a popular movie that was released in theaters late in 1983. It starred Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson as the three major characters. Throughout the movie, the viewer follows the relationship between a mother, Aurora (Shirley MacLaine), and daughter, Emma (Debra Winger), over a thirty year span. Their relationship involves many changes, ups and downs, and ends when Emma tragically passes away from breast cancer. The movie shows how complicated life and relationships can get, while showing the importance of these relationships in keeping a fulfilling and meaningful life (Brooks, 1983).
Application to Health Related Quality of Life
Health related quality of life is something that has been studied by many theorists for decades. C.E. Ferran’s model of health related quality of life is well known and will be this nurse’s focus. Ferran discusses how the environment and the individual both play a role in one’s quality of life. She believes a person defines his/her own quality of life because each individual is different and perceives life differently. With these differences come different levels of satisfaction. There are four areas of focus in her theory; family, psychological-spiritual, socio-economics, and health/functioning. Each level includes different aspects that contribute to a person’s satisfaction of life and health related quality of life (North, 2013).
In the movie, Terms of Endearment, it is easy to follow this theory for the main character Aurora. She goes through ups and downs with the relationship with her daughter and also with trying to find a life partner. The satisfaction she feels in life develops throughout the movie. One can see her struggle with her relationship to Garrett (a next door neighbor) as he struggles to find meaning in life (Brown, 1983). She values her family, independence, health, and responsibilities, which all fall into Ferran’s health and functioning category. Aurora values her home, and social support, which fall into Ferran’s socioeconomic category. The movie focuses on her value of family, which is shown throughout with her relationship with her daughter, her daughter’s health, her grandchildren, and her focus on all their happiness. Aurora would give anything to make the family in her life happy. The main thing she struggles with is in the psychological/spiritual category Ferran describes, which is control over life. She grows throughout the movie to develop a deeper sense of self in these areas, give up some control, and come to terms with what she was given in life and the blessings she has (North, 2013).
The theory this nurse would like to focus on in this section is called role theory. This is an older theory from 1942 by Cottrell. It states that as people get older they adapt to new roles in life. The person’s ability to adapt to these new roles will help a person either feel he/she is aging well or not aging well. For a person to be successful in the aging process, he/she must be able to leave behind one role and move into another role (Touhy & Jett, 2012, p. 37).
Again, this nurse would like to relate this theory to the main older adult character, Aurora. Throughout the movie, the viewer is following Aurora and her role changes. She starts off with a young child, Emma, in a strict parental role. The movie covers her struggles with this role and her reluctance to move out of this role when Emma marries. It then shows her adjustment to being a grandmother, living alone, and trying to find a place for herself in society. Finally, at the end when her daughter dies, Aurora must take over care of the children and be put back into the parenting role. It was dynamic to watch. The struggles she faced from each role seemed to get harder and harder; yet with her age and knowledge growing throughout, it made each transition seem just a little bit easier on her character. The role theory is a great theory to relate to Aurora’s challenges and accomplishments in life and aging (Brown, 1983).
Ageism is described as “the systematic stereotyping of, and discrimination against, people because they are old, just as racism and sexism accomplish this with skin color and gender” (Touhy & Jett, 2012, p. 82). Many older adults are stereotyped and this makes it difficult for one to care for people in this time of life. If healthcare professionals hold views of ageism, the aging population will be treated poorly, and it could influence their quality of life and minimize the real problems they are facing.
The movie “Terms of Endearment” was released in 1983. During this time, ageism was more apparent than in recent years, three decades later. This nursing student feels this movie was far ahead of its time in showing the need for and importance of older individuals in the family structure. Although Emma’s mother was aging, it showed the stages she went through and how she came out a better person in the end. It did not “make fun” of elderly individuals or downplay the sociological and health related issues they may face. In the end, Emma’s husband agreed to have her mother help raise the children. This showed how much Emma valued her mother and her upbringing and that her husband agreed. This nurse enjoyed how much the older adults were respected in this movie.
There is one portion of the movie that may be included in the discussion of ageism. The title of the movie itself, terms of endearment. So, what are terms of endearment when related to ageism? For instance, when a nurse is taking care of an elderly patient and uses terms of endearment to address that patient, it would be considered ageism. Names like honey, sweetheart, darling, baby, and many more could be used by health professionals to address the elderly. This is disrespectful and can decrease the elderly individuals’ self esteem (Brown & Draper, 2003). In the sense of the title of the movie, it means nothing to ageism. The title of the movie is discussing the terms between family members and their importance, not to the effect of ageism.
Health related quality of life, sociology, and ageism are all important terms when learning about gerontological nursing. Movies that have older characters often address these topics and issues in the screenplay. It is important for nurses to understand these topics and be able to apply them to everyday life. This nurse learned from relating these topics to the movie “Terms of Endearment.” She hopes our society will continue to grow in knowledge about the elderly population, decrease the stress on the elderly and eliminate ageism from today’s society.
Brooks, J.L. (Producer & Director). (1983). Terms of endearment [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.
Brown, A., & Draper, P. (2003). Accommodative speech and terms of endearment: elements of a language mode often experienced by older adults. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 41 (1): 15-21.
North, S. (2013). Health-related quality of life [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from: https://fsulearn.ferris.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_6571_1%26url%3D
Touhy, T. A., & Jett, K. (2012). Toward healthy aging: Human needs & nursing response. St. Louis, MO: Mosby.