Movie and Aging Project by Crystal Ammons,
Andrea Isbell, Laura Sullivan, and Regina Wallace.
Touhy, T. (2008). Cognition and caring for persons with cognitive impairment. In C. Jackson & A. Politte
(Eds.), Toward healthy aging: Human needs and nursing response (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
Touhy, T. (2008). Emotional Health in Late Life. In C. Jackson & A. Politte (Eds.), Toward healthy aging:
human needs and nursing response (7th ed., p. 625). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
Jett, K. (2008). Loss, death, and dying in late life. In C. Jackson & A. Politte (Eds.), Toward healthy aging:
Human needs and nursing response (7th ed., pp. 641-642). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
Jett, K. (2008). Physiological changes with aging. In C. Jackson & A. Politte (Eds.), Toward healthy aging:
Human needs and nursing response (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
Henry Fonda: Norman Thayer, Jr., a retired professor.
Katharine Hepburn: Ethyl Thayer, Norman’s wife.
Jane Fonda: Chelsea Thayer, Norman and Ethyl’s divorced
Dabney Coleman: Bill Ray, a dentist and Chelsea’s love
Doug McKeon: Billy Ray, Jr., Bill Ray’s 13 year-old son from a
previous marriage.
Directed by Mark Rydell, the film received great acclaim with
Fonda and Hepburn both winning Oscars for leading actor
and actress.
Norman and Ethyl Thayer visit their Summer
cottage on Golden Pond to celebrate Norman’s 80th
Joining them is their daughter, Chelsea, her
boyfriend Bill, and his son Billy Jr.
Norman is faced with his mortality and changes
that often accompany aging. These changes bring
about a negative attitude that revolves around
limited time and death.
Chelsea and her father have been estranged and
her visit brings up old wounds.
Chelsea and Bill leave for Europe for a month, leaving Billy Jr.
behind to spend the time with Norman and Ethyl.
Billy’s attitude toward the old couple is one of disdain and he
talks of leaving and going back to California.
Norman and Ethyl slowly interest Billy Jr. in life on the pond
and soon he begins fishing and doing things around the
house with them.
Norman and Billy forge a bond that changes Billy Jr.’s attitude
toward the old couple and relationships with elders.
Chelsea returns to see that Norman has a relationship with
Billy Jr. that she never had with her father.
Norman and Chelsea work toward healing the rift that has
pulled them apart for so many years.
Director Mark Rydell sets the film in an old cottage
on Golden Pond that has seen some wear and tear
similar to the physical changes that Norman and
Ethyl have experienced over the years. The
unhinged door is a metaphor for Norman’s aging
mind, body, and his attitude. With some care, it
may be repaired.
Norman and Billy Jr. search for “Walter”, the elusive
trout that is the prize of their fishing trips. The
fish symbolizes the peace that Norman is seeking
in dealing with his mortality.
Central points made by the director include:
 Fear of aging and death.
 Change in attitudes toward mortality and the
strain it puts on relationships.
 Anticipatory grief felt by Norman as he
experiences physical and mental changes
(Jett, 2008a).
 Reminiscence of good times on the pond by
Ethyl used as a means of therapy (Touhy,
Integument changes: gray hair
caused by decreased
production of melanin in the
bulb of hair which is often thin
in areas of the head such as
the vertex (Jett, 2008b)
Decreased visual acuity and
accommodation.95% of older
adults over the age of 65
generally wear glasses and
often view this normal process
as an inconvenience rather
than problem (Jett, 2008b).
Auditory changes: Norman had
manifestations that leave one
to believe he had loss of
auditory neurons in spiral
ganglia or organ of Corti as
evidence by his inability to
hear high-frequency sounds
that interfered with
understanding of speech (i.e.
when he talked on telephone).
Memory Retrieval: the ability to retain and regurgitate information as
needed (Touhy, 2008a).
◦ Norman exhibits signs and symptoms of mild cognitive
impairment in that he has a greater level of memory loss in
respect to his peers which in this case refers to his wife (Touhy,
◦ Norman exhibits this when his wife sends him out to pick
strawberries in a field that he has visited many times and he
suddenly becomes stricken with anxiety due to his inability to
recall his surroundings.
◦ This type of cognitive impairment leads to dementia which
includes memory retrieval deficits as well as aphasia (i.e. inability
to speak fluently), apraxia (i.e. inability to create purposeful
movements), agnosia (i.e. inability to recognize familiar objects or
people), and “disturbances in executive functioning” (i.e. inability
to plan or organize) (Touhy, 2008a, p. 560).
Defenses used by Norman
 Definition of defense mechanism:
psychological autonomic reactions
that protect one against anxiety,
stressors, and dangers (Touhy,
Possible Adjustment disorders
Definition of Adjustment disorder:
emotional responses to the loss of ones
integrity (i.e. creativity, self-worth) that
results in despair as evidenced by anger
and depression (Touhy, 2008b).
Projection: attribution of ones own
feelings outwardly onto others
(Touhy, 2008b)
Altruism: dedication of ones time
and efforts in an attempt to obtain
gratification via feelings of
appreciation (Touhy, 2008b)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
unpleasant regards of apprehension
commonly related to life events such as
illness, social and financial status
changes, as well as decreased cognition
(Touhy, 2008b).
Excessive suspicion: insecurity resulting
in a lack of trust stemming from an
attempts to control unsatisfactory
situations secondary to social isolation
(Touhy, 2008b).
Aging is a consistent battle for integrity vs. despair
Denial of aging results in anger, cynical behavior, and
decreased emotional vulnerability
Normalizing external factors to ones inner emotional
integrity yield coherent and therapeutic coping mechanisms
regarding age
Increasing psychological supports decrease despair in the
elder thus creating an accepting, healthy, and anticipatory
aging process.
Renewing his relationship with his daughter Chelsea by
increasing his social interactions with others.
Expressing more emotional vulnerability and acceptance to
Redefining his purpose and meaning in life
Conflicts of aging vs. appreciation of aging process
Disorganized family relationships
Nature and time are symbolized in the film by the Thayer
couple retiring to the pond around the time where everything
is beginning to bloom and has a new look on life. In essence
Norman begins to “bloom” by shedding his old habits and
creates a new life for himself. His life now has meaning and
This purpose is symbolized by the releasing of the old fish,
Walter. This catch and release symbolizes the captivity of
Norman’s emotional and mental beliefs regarding aging.
Norman releases his old thoughts and is given a second lease
on life.
Memory Impairment
Impaired Vision
Self care deficit
Ineffective coping with the aging process
Impaired Judgment
Encourage Norman/patient to discuss feelings or concerns
while letting them know that you are there for them.
Provide constant supervision of patient. When nurse is not
available a family member or hired persons can fill in with
watching over patient.
Provide extra lighting in the patient’s house as well as keep a
clear pathway free of clutter.