Bioethics Blogs

He Can No Longer at the Age of 98 [EOL in Art 75]

Beneath Goya’s illustration reads the title: “He Can No Longer at the Age of 98.” 

An old man stands alone, accompanied only by his shadow. His bent body caves under some unknown force, and the man tries his best to remain upright by relying on two canes, one held in each hand. Facing to the front left of the paper, the old man appears to be on his way to some destination; his feet are not drawn with any suggestion of movement, however, and so it appears that despite his intentions, the old man cannot accomplish the simple goal of walking.

The vagueness of title’s meaning allows the viewer to indulge a multitude of imaginings of what specifically the man can no longer do – he cannot walk, cannot function, cannot survive independently, he cannot do most anything. Drawn and painted without color, Goya’s lonely and impotent old man offers a bleak outlook on severe old age.

The artwork raises powerful questions of how one should deal with the inevitable decline in abilities brought on by old age. How can one age to the point of total frailty yet retain one’s happiness and joie de vivre?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.