About the event
Over the next 50 years, the number of older persons in the world will grow from about 600 million to almost 2 billion. Today, one person in ten is aged 60 or over - by 2050, this will be one person in five, and by 2150, one in three. Such a major demographic change presents huge challenges.
The International Day of Older Persons aims to raise awareness of the impact of an ageing population and the need to ensure that people can grow old with dignity and continue to participate in society as citizens with full rights. It also seeks to emphasise how older people can make major contributions to their communities, through volunteer work, transmitting experience and knowledge, helping their families with caring responsibilities and participating in the paid labour force.
How to approach it
This day raises questions about, in particular, the concept of care and the question of how our social systems should look after all people. As people age they tend to need more support and collective effort to make sure they are comfortable and included. Like the care of other vulnerable people, the sign of a good society is one that proactively looks after its older people, allowing them to live fulfilling lives throughout old age. Get your students thinking about this by asking what ‘care’ means to them. What does it look like in your family, what about a school, a local community or a city? Key terms to highlight are inclusion, support, financial stability, listening and accommodating.
This is also another opportunity to run some empathy exercises with your students. In order to justify the care of particular people it is useful to reinforce answers to the question: ‘Why should we care?’. One way to do this is by practising the golden rule and helping students to put themselves in the shoes of older people. Start close to home by talking to students about their older family members. Ask: What caring things have you ever done for them? What caring things have they done for you? Why do we as families care for one another? And finally: When you get older how would you like to be treated? Here is when you can expand this question to wider society. Explore how a society in which everyone looks out for others and which has solid systems in place to make sure everyone is looked after is far nicer to live in.
Finally, in relation to the last section you could explore how we should care for older people. The current care system which is underfunded, isolating and generally unfulfilling isn’t a particularly good model to follow. Help students think through this by pointing back to how they would like to be treated. We would prefer systems of care that include us in wider society, that allow us to participate and to utilise our wealth of skills, knowledge and advice. This is an excellent lesson in acting with understanding and how to effectively design caring, inclusive systems that take all the needs of others into account.
What does the act of caring mean to you? How do your parents care for you? How do you care for them? What about your friends? Caring for others doesn’t just stop with those we know, it's important that our communities and society as a whole cares for everyone, especially the most vulnerable. What do you think a good system of care would look like for older people? How would you like to be cared for when you get older?