“We need to raise the consciousness of the need for incorporating content on aging into all levels of schools’ curricula,” says Forrest Scogin, chairman of the American Psychology Association’s Committee on Aging. “There needs diverse group. Stereotypes just don’t work.”
Fortunately, education has a proven impact on younger people’s attitudes toward seniors. In a 2005 study by the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University, psychologists sought to determine the influence of college courses of attitude change toward older adults. Findings revealed that students’ negative attitudes toward older adults significantly decreased and their positive attitudes increased after taking a course on Aging and Family.
Gerontologists have been making great strides in “age sensitivity training.” Several universities now include courses on aging – intended for liberal arts undergraduates, not just students of gerontology or health care. Monika wood, a sociology professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, even administers an “aging stimulation” regimen in her courses. “Reading about aging is not the same as experiencing it,” Wood says. She requires her students to alter their clothing and wear various accessories that simulate the aches and pains, diminished senses and restricted movements experienced by seniors. Special glasses simulate the visual impairment of cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. Dried corn kernels in the shoes re-create the pain of walking. Rubber gloves and duct taped elbows, knees and knuckles impart the limited range of motion from arthritis. Ear plugs and nose plugs convey the loss of hearing and taste that sometimes accompany old age. These aging simulation exercises don’t strive just to reach, but to instill empathy in the students.