Negotiating with management when proposing an education session involving an older person

Things to keep in mind when proposing an education session to management

  • Try to strike a balance between providing sufficient information to support a decision from management and overwhelming them with too much/poorly presented/irrelevant detail.
  • Management may be wary of, or unfamiliar with the idea of directly involving older people in education sessions, so try to anticipate their concerns and be prepared to talk through the issues, answer questions, and follow up as required.
  • It is essential that the proposed session(s) fit within your curriculum/educational needs, assessment and accreditation requirements and/or the outcomes of safety audits - and you can readily demonstrate how this is the case.
  • Remember that there is a LOT of work and time involved in properly planning and conducting an education session involving an older person. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all you need to do is invite someone the week before!
  • The proposal template is an example only. Your particular work context or situation may require different headings/sections or a different order.
  • Keep it simple! Use succinct, clear language and diagrams/visuals where appropriate, rather than presenting the reader with “walls of text”.
  • Keep it brief!  Some sections will only contain a sentence or two. Make judgements about where to provide additional detail, based on your knowledge of your organisational context, manager preferences and current issues/priorities.
  • If well written, the proposal will be useful not only to present to management for approval, but can serve as evidence of education for accreditation and be a planning tool to refer back to (and ‘recycle’ if you run other sessions in future).



There are a number of decisions to be made, and aspects to keep in mind, in the early stages of planning your education session.

Here are some cues to get you started, and you can find more detail in the linked documents which you can print out, or save for future reference.

Decide on the topic – One of the early decisions relates to the proposed main topic or focus of the education session. This may be largely dictated by your curriculum and the timing of the session, or you may have some scope to propose one or more topics identified through your CQI processes or evaluation of your training needs.

Locate a potential guest speaker – You may need to locate an older person to present at your education session, or they may find you! Your local community nursing or residential aged care facilities may provide helpful contacts, or you might know someone through your personal or professional networks. The members of organisations such as the CWA, the Men's Shed, Rotary and the Lion's Club may be willing to participate or may be able to suggest someone relevant to your topic. Even if you do know the person, be sure to maintain professionalism, send appropriately worded emails or letters, and keep their Rights and Responsibilities in mind.

Early conversations - If you initiate contact with a potential guest speaker, let them know the topic of the session and other details (if known). This will also be helpful if you are asking a residential aged care facility to suggest someone who may be appropriate. If the older person approaches you and the topic is not fixed, speak with them about what they would most like to talk about. The Checklist for Educators provides additional detail about what is needed at each stage on OPTEACHing.

Assessing suitability – It may take a while to find someone who is 'a good fit' for your education session. Take time to speak to each potential guest speaker to get to know their strengths and preferences. Don't automatically discount someone just because they have dementia, cognitive decline or other impairment – but DO make allowances for those and work to manage any risks to that person and the learners.

Discuss the options – You will need to balance the educational priorities with the needs and preferences of the older person. Perhaps some adjustments can be made (e.g. if someone wants to share their story but feels overwhelmed in a group, you may be able to pre-record then show it in a tutorial or lecture). However, if it becomes obvious that there is not 'a good fit', then inform the older person clearly - yet kindly.

Maintain emotional and cultural safety – It is your responsibility to try to maintain an environment which is emotionally, physically and culturally safe for both the guest speaker and the learners (see the link on the During tab). It can be helpful for the guest speaker to have a nominated carer or support person with them on the day. If the guest speaker opts not to have a carer, it is a good idea to organise someone to debrief with them immediately after the session.

Remember that each education session is different and sometimes the 'steps' involved in planning occur in a different sequence to those outlined here. Sometimes you'll also need to make adjustments to suit your particular setting or situation. Regardless, try not to skip over any of the steps, and make use of the checklist to make sure you've addressed everything in this beneficial approach.

You’ve reached the point of actually running your education session.

Congratulations! Remember that as the facilitator of the session, you should do what you can to ensure that the session is successful from an educational perspective and that both your guest speaker and the audience members have a positive experience. If you are the organiser but not the facilitator, you may direct the facilitator to this page and recommend they also read/download the links suggested below.
A key point to keep in mind is that your guest speaker is an expert in their life, their body and their story. Although they may show signs of ageing, they should not be ‘spoken down to’ or treated as inferior. The way you conduct yourself today (and the way you encourage others to conduct themselves) should convey a feeling of appreciation and respect for the guest speaker assisting you and the learners, even if they say things you don’t agree with or find confronting. Perhaps you feel that everyone should already know how to show respect and appreciation. However, considering cultural, generational and personal background differences it is necessary to be up front about expectations.

Make sure you’re familiar with your general Responsibilities outlined in the checklist. Previous guest speakers/Older people have said this about facilitators:

“The facilitator kept interrupting my story and lost my place”
“The students wouldn’t talk so I started asking them questions.”

During the session, focus on the following:

  • Introduce the guest speaker to the group in a way that is respectful but not too formal. Ask the guest speaker how they would like to be addressed –  i.e. as “Mrs Jones” or “Betty”.
  • Depending on the size and format of the group, you may ask the audience members to individually introduce themselves to the guest speaker and/or provide name tags.
  • Make sure you have devoted time to developing and posting the Group Agreements so there are shared understandings about how the session will run.
  • Take your timekeeping role seriously, and seek to effectively yet politely ensure that adequate time is allowed for different components (e.g. questions, group discussion) and that the session does not run over time.
  • Monitor the wellbeing of both the learners and the guest speaker. Pay attention to nonverbal signals of emotional or physical discomfort, and be sure to respond appropriately if potentially offensive (i.e. ageist, racist, homophobic ) comments are made. If this happens ask the group and the older person how they feel about the comment that was just made so it can be used as a learning experience.
  • Accept that you won’t have full control over what happens, but reassure yourself that even difficult or uncomfortable situations can serve as ‘teachable moments’.
  • Make a judgement about whether applause is appropriate at the end of the session. Regardless, make sure that both you and the learners demonstrate their appreciation to the guest speaker.

Your education session has just come to an end.

Well done! There are still some things that need to be done to help the guest speaker and the learners feel a sense of ‘closure’ (which is particularly important if the session was emotionally charged). A sense of security comes from making sure that everyone’s privacy is respected.

So, after the education session has finished, make sure that you (or your delegate)

  • Remind everyone about their confidentiality responsibilities which extends to social media, sharing photographs etc
  • Ensure that evaluation forms are completed and collected
  • Make it a priority to debrief with the guest speaker to assess their wellbeing and hear their suggestions for improvement
  • Ensure that you take time to note down and reflect on your thoughts and feelings about how the session went and what you’d do differently in future. You may like to use our Reflection Guide to assist with this process.
  • If there were aspects that did not go well, consider whether you may need to follow up with your manager, the learners, the guest speaker and/or the guest speaker’s carer or family members.
  • Consider how your understanding of this partnership with older people and learners informs the Continuous Quality Improvement cycle and contributes to accreditation/auditing requirements for your organisation.
  • If a Residential Aged Care Facility is involved, review relevant care plans and ensure any information or outcomes from the session are included where relevant.
  • Consider whether the session has highlighted areas that need further education or exploration. If so, ensure that you have the necessary conversations with colleagues and management, and add these to the education calendar.

Once again, remember to maintain a spirit of gratitude, even if the session didn’t go quite according to plan! Recognise the learning opportunities when the unexpected happens.