In the near future, you may be fortunate to spend time with an older person in an education session

The older person has an amazing amount of life experience. They are generously giving of their time to help you learn about their story and the reality of ageing from their perspective. The older person may have similar ideas, opinions and background to you or they may be very different. Regardless, try to be open to hearing what they have to say and to understanding their situation.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most from the learning experience:


Respect their reality

Remind yourself that the older person is the expert in their life, their body, and their story. While others might have expertise in certain health fields or other professions, the older person is THE best person to explain their own 'lived reality'.


Be kind and polite

Do your best to retain an attentive and open attitude towards the older person throughout the session – even if they are 'going off on a tangent', even if the topic is not that interesting to you, or if you disagree with or are offended by what they say. These are all opportunities for learning and you'll have time to debrief after the older person has left.


Practice your observational skills

Do your best to observe all aspects of the situation – not just the answers to questions. Does the older person seem confident speaking to the group? What do you notice about how they walk and move? How are they dressed? How do they speak and use language? You can observe these things, not to pass judgement, but instead to hone your skills as someone who is (or will be) working with older people


Be patient with the older person

They may take some time to get comfortable or to understand (or even just hear) what is being said. Avoid appearing impatient, bored, or like you'd rather be somewhere else. Be prepared to repeat, or re-word questions or comments if the older person seems not to have heard or understood you.


Maintain confidentiality

This means that whatever you see or hear during the session must not be repeated or shared with other people afterwards (including during casual conversation, with colleagues, or on social media etc). This extends to members of the audience, the educator or lecturer as well as the older person.


Encourage the older person

They might be feeling quite nervous or overwhelmed. Maintain eye contact and remember that a friendly smile or a well-timed nod from you could be the encouragement they need to keep going.


Reflect on the experience

If the education session is being filmed and you're able to view it afterwards, watch it as a professional. Critique the way audience members phrase questions and note how they act towards the older person. Does their facial expression and body language communicate interest and respect? Or do they seem bored and shut off? Do certain types of questions help the older person to engage?


Consider your learning

Think about how this education session relates to other things you're learning at present. Consider the links with particular subjects, units of study, or KPIs for your workplace. Think about your own assumptions about older people, and be prepared to revise these in the light of new information!