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topic four – old people

general approach

Young people today have a mixture of attitudes to the elderly, probably due to their own experiences. Some families may live a long way from the grandparents and so the children see little of them or other elderly people. Other children may have a very close relationship and could even be living with them.

Traditionally, in communities across the world, older people play a very important role. They are seen as having wisdom and knowledge of valuable traditions which they pass on to younger generations. They are greatly respected for this.

However, this attitude is changing. As the number of elderly people grows and life expectancy increases, it becomes important for young people to examine and perhaps change their attitudes to old age. This topic reinforces the positive contributions which old people can and do make, especially in the light of discussion about euthanasia.

If you want detailed descriptions from a wide number of societies, Simone de Beauvoir's book, Old Age, published by Deutsch and Weidenfeld and Nicolson gives many examples.

There are three activities which can introduce the subject.

activity one

If you have done the activity on the Cycle of life in topic three, you could use the images given there of old age. If not, have a brainstorming session on the class's view of old people and write a list of characteristics on a flip chart or board (where you can refer to it later). After this give them worksheet 7 on page 23 Who's past it? and ask them to guess and write in the ages of the people described there.

The answers are: M is 78, E 60, W 80, C 94, K 101 and N 63.

The class could then discuss together the following questions:
• were any of them surprised by these ages? Why?
• what positive experiences have they had with older people?
• what did they learn from these?

Look again at the list you made earlier. Does the class want to change or add anything to it?


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