On Golden Pond – a Lesson in Dementia Awareness?
by  Shelley

Last night I watched On Golden Pond starring Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn.  It also featured Jane Fonda. I ended up crying for an hour.

I hadn’t seen the movie since it’s release in 1981 and I had forgotten that dementia (although the word was never uttered) played a part in the movie.  There is a scene where Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) asks Norman (Henry Fonda) to go out and pick some berries.  While searching for the berries, he becomes lost and temporarily unable to find his way back home.  His facial expressions of the sheer terror that being lost and unable to remember the way home would bring were spot on!

Dementia wasn’t discussed much 30 years ago.  It was often thought of as a part of aging and referred to as senility, as something that was expected of old people.  Seldom was the fear that the person with the memory loss experienced spoken of.  This film was far ahead of its time in that regard.

Today, there are more than 5 million people in the United States alone that are suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and that doesn’t include other causes of dementia such as vascular disease, Parkinson’s, Lewy Bodies, AIDs-related, frontotemporal Lobe and more.   The number of Alzheimer’s cases is expected to increase to 16 million by 2050!

My father had dementia; he also had heart disease as Henry Fonda’s character is eluded to having.  My father spent many months each year at his cabin on the lake and loved fishing.  He could sometimes be an “old POOP”, as Ethel lovingly called Norman several times throughout the movie.  So for me, this movie brought back a lot of memories and brought forth a lot of tears.

How I miss that man.

Old age is not fun but it is inevitable.  Dementia robs those afflicted with it of even more time.  Can we do anything to stop it?  A little bit.

You can find a wonderful comprehensive article about some of the information that came out of the Alzheimer’s Association 2011 International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease, which took place in Paris last week, HERE.

photo credit: IMDB.com


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