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A Lesson in Aging

Ever placed cotton balls in your ears and tried to understand what someone is saying?  How about trying to open a medicine bottle with gloves on your hands or see with your eyes shaded by sunglasses smeared with Vaseline?  While the thought of doing such things may seem silly, in fact, these activities very much mimic what many frail elderly experience every day, but few understand the difficulties they face, particularly youth who have never experienced it.

What do high school students know about aging and issues facing the elderly?  The students at Manchester’s Memorial High School know a lot more after participating in a class that utilized the Seniors Count Aging Sensitivity Curriculum.

“I’ve learned to have a little more patience and appreciation of older people.” - student

Designed to improve youth’s understanding of older adults and the community’s commitment to older adults, the interactive curriculum was brought to students through a partnership of the Manchester Regional Area Committee on Aging, the Manchester School District and Seniors Count.

Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta had expressed his desire to have the City of Manchester's students more involved with Seniors Count.  The Seniors Count administrative team worked with Manchester Regional Area Committee on Aging, Superintendents Office and High School Principles and others to bring about the development and implementation of the Aging Sensitivity Curriculum.

Seniors Count provided Aging Sensitivity kits that were assembled by the American Red Cross. Elliot Health System contributed in-kind printing of the Aging Sensitivity Curriculum and "Train the Trainer" sessions were held with teachers at Memorial and West High Schools.  They jumped on the opportunity to use it.  More than 2,200 students at Memorial, and 600 students at West High School participated – with absolutely no negative feedback, according to the school’s principal.  “It helped them to better understand older people and their own perceptions of them,” said Principal Arthur Adamakos.

New Hampshire Public Television is now helping to broaden the impact of the availability of the Aging Sensitivity Curriculum by placing it on its Web site as a downloadable document available to anyone.

To date, more than 3,000 youth received the Seniors Count Aging Sensitivity Curriculum, and an additional 80 youth from City Year, a subdivision of AmeriCorps, received the aging sensitivity training in conjunction with their participation in the Seniors Count Spring Clean Up.   The feedback has been outstanding:

“It’s raised my awareness and caused me to realize I need to cut older people a little more slack.” – student

“The students really enjoyed it.  It was very interactive and that’s the way students learn best.” – teacher

Through a productive partnership with a solid purpose, Seniors Count was able to establish an initiative by which the community is raising the awareness of aging issues.  The Manchester Regional Area Committee on Aging, the City of Manchester Mayor's Office, Superintendent and four high school principals, City Year (a subdivision of AmeriCorps), NH Public Television, Easter Seals NH and the Seniors Count Collaborating Council have successfully focused attention and created a collaborative partnership to raise awareness among youth.