Bioethics Blogs

Wrinkles and the Paradox of Aging

Keri-Leigh Cassidy critiques how old age and dementia are depicted in the film Wrinkles.

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Wrinkles is an animated film about life in a nursing home. It offers a rare glimpse of a subject generally avoided in popular culture and film. Wrinkles follows Emilio through stages of dementia, with a focus on his relationship with his roommate Miguel who bears witness to Emilio’s decline.

The subject matter of the film is particularly welcome to me as a geriatric psychiatrist who works with patients with dementia and residents of long-term care. My main concern with Wrinkles, however, is that the film plays into many negative stereotypes with little to challenge common fears of dementia and aging. Despite a few touches of humour and an unexpected twist at the end, for me the film’s tone is decidedly depressing.

Meanwhile, I find working in long term care and with patients with dementia to be very rewarding. Contrary to the common view of dementia being “worse than death,” the vast majority of people diagnosed with dementia do not wish to commit suicide. Rather, they continue to enjoy and appreciate their lives. By the time a person with dementia needs the level of care people fear most (in Wrinkles, the upstairs floor of the nursing home) they are no longer aware of their deficits. Yet, they do continue to respond to human kindness and simple comforts – a warm embrace, tasty food or a familiar song. Music therapy can have a dramatic impact, even in late stage dementia. Here is a documentary on the subject.

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.