Appendix C: Orientation and Training

Jump to: Sample Training Activities for Youth | Understanding Older Adults | Hopes and Fears | Instant Aging | “Crabby Old Woman”


The following activities should be conducted before residents meet with youth:

Childhood Memories

  • Ask residents to find a partner.
  • Talk about what you were like when you were the age of the youth with whom you will be working.
    • What did you look like?
    • What did you love about being that age?
    • What was the hardest thing about being that age?
    • Share some of your answers and discuss common themes.
  • Explore challenges facing today’s youth.
    • How has the experience of childhood and/or adolescence changed since you were young?

Teenagers are…

  • Write the word “teenager” on the board. Ask participants to tell you the first thing they think of when they see this word. How would they describe someone in their teen years? Record all responses. Notice if this list is based on stereotypes.
  • Ask participants to think of a teenager they know or have known. Ask them to talk about this person with a partner. Ask a few residents to share with the group their descriptions of teens they know. Record key phrases. Notice if this list, which is based on experience, is more positive than the first list.
  • Discuss how the two lists differ and why.

Active Listening

  • Begin by explaining that active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what is said.
  • Ask participants to think of a time when they felt that work colleagues, family members, doctors, store clerks, or others weren’t listening to them.
  • Split into pairs and share stories. Ask the listener to identify what the person in the story did that demonstrated they weren’t listening. How did this affect the speaker? Did the speaker feel devalued, angry, upset, or hurt?
  • Gather the ideas and develop some principles of good listening.


The following activities should be conducted before youth meet with residents. They can help you and your partner organization sensitize youth to issues of aging and dispel negative stereotypes of older people. Feel free to adapt these exercises, based on the age and culture of the youth and older adults with whom you are working.

What is Old?

  • Write “old person” or “elder” on a blackboard or flip chart.
  • Ask students to tell you the first thing they think of when they see these words. Record all responses.
  • Ask participants to think about a person they know who is over age 65, such as a grandparent, older relative, or older neighbor. Ask students to write words or a short paragraph describing that person.
  • Ask volunteers to share their descriptions.
  • Ask students why the first list is almost always different than the second. Discuss how many words in the first list are stereotypes, compared to words in the second list, which is based on experience.
  • Discuss the concepts of stereotyping and ageism, which is negative stereotypes based on age. Ask how youth are stereotyped by adults and how older people are stereotyped by younger people.

Imagine …

  • Ask students to relax, close their eyes, and try to imagine themselves at age 75. You can ask the following questions to help guide students while they are imagining the future:
    • What do you look like?
    • Where do you live?
    • How do you spend your time?
    • What is your favorite thing to do?
    • What makes you happy?
    • What makes you sad?
  • Discuss answers either in pairs or as a large group. Ask students to describe what attitudes they think are behind the images that came to mind, and how they felt about the experience.


Understanding Older Adults

  • On a blackboard or flip chart, make two columns. Label one, “Concerns/Needs,” and label the other, “Strengths/Assets.”
  • Ask students to brainstorm the concerns/needs and strengths/assets of older people. Write the attributes in the appropriate column, or ask students to write them on sticky notes first and then place the notes in the appropriate column.
  • Explain that older adults have needs and face challenges, but they also have developed many strengths over their lifetimes. Help young people recognize the positive and negative aspects of aging.
  • Follow up with a discussion of what young people have to offer older adults and what older adults have to offer young people. Reciprocity is the key to meaningful intergenerational relationships.


Hopes and Fears

  • Near the end of the orientation, ask students to list their hopes and fears related to working with older adults. It is important to discuss these issues before you bring the youth and older adults together.
    • Hopes might include making a new friend, learning a new skill, or understanding what it’s like to grow older.
    • Fears might include concerns about illness, disability or death; fear of being judged by an older adult; or discomfort when communicating with older adults.


Instant Aging

Note: This exercise is intended to simulate some of the physical changes that may accompany aging and to help young people experience feelings of dependency. The exercise should only be used if youth will be working with frail older adults. If not implemented properly, this exercise could promote negative stereotypes of older people.

  • To prepare for this exercise, collect the following supplies:
    • Masking tape.
    • Un-popped popcorn.
    • Eyeglasses with Vaseline on the lenses.
    • Wax earplugs.
    • A wheelchair, if possible.
  • Introduce the activity by telling students the goals of the exercise and warning them that they might experience some discomfort or frustration.
  • Hand out the supplies as follows:
    • Tape some students’ hands, arms and/or legs to simulate strokes and arthritis.
    • Hand out eyeglasses with lenses covered with Vaseline to some students.
    • Give ear plugs to some students.
    • Place popcorn in some students’ shoes to simulate corns, calluses, bunions, and arthritis.
    • Have one or more students sit in the wheelchair.
  • Choose an activity that requires a motor skill, such as writing a letter, using a cell phone, or eating a snack. Tell students who can’t do the task that they may ask for help from others.
  • After students have completed the activity, ask them to remove their aging-simulation gear.
    • Facilitate a discussion using some of the following questions:
    • How did you feel when you had limited use of your body?
    • How did it feel to be dependent on other people?
    • How did you adapt to these limitations?
    • Did you reach out to help others? Did you ask for help when you needed it?
    • How did it feel to ask for and receive (or not receive) help?
  • Discuss how an older person with a disability might want to be treated. Write the words “empathy” and “sympathy” on the board or flip chart. Provide clear definitions of both concepts and discuss. Make it clear that not all older people experience disabilities. Be careful not to feed into stereotypes.

“Crabby Old Woman”

What do you see, what do you see?
Are you thinking, when you look at me—
A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice,
I do wish you’d try.
Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who, unresisting or not, lets you do as you will
With bathing and feeding the long day is fill.
Is that what you’re thinking,
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes,
nurse, you’re looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still!
As I rise at your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of 10 with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who loved one another
A young girl of 16 with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet,
A bride soon at 20- my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At 25 now I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure happy home;
A woman of 30, my young now grow fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last;

At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn;
At 50 once more babies play around my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread,
For my young are all rearing young of their own.
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve
I’m an old woman now and nature is cruel—
Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body is crumbled, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart,
But inside this old carcass, a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells,
I remember the joy, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years all too few- gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last—
So open your eyes, nurse, open and see,
Not a crabby old woman, look closer—
See ME.