Center Stage--Focus on the Elderly

6, 7, 8

Students will be engaged in reflections of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination related to elderly individuals. Students develop sensitivity to working in direct service projects with individuals who are elderly. Subsequently, students will also generate guidelines for positively and sensitively working with these individuals. This includes appropriate conduct/etiquette, as well as appropriate conversation.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Periods

The learner will:

  • analyze the personal perspective of individuals who are elderly.
  • identify the task, skills and procedures for successful interaction with elderly individuals.
  • Student copies of handout Am I Ready to Serve? 
  • Children's books (see Instructional Procedure)
  • Student copies of handout Responding to Literature
  • Student copies of handout Images of the Elderly
  • Kaye, Cathryn Berger. The Service Learning Bookshelf. California: ABCD Books, 1999, 2000. ISBN: 0967807220
  • Spaide, Deborah. Teaching Your Kids to Care. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN: 0806516372


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask students to "Write down all the thoughts and feelings you have when I say 'elderly people'." This can be done in list format, although use of a concept map/web is suggested for greater expression of ideas. This list or map should be collected to use as a pre-assessment survey.


  2. Have students look through newspapers and magazines for pictures of elderly people. Once they are collected, use them as a springboard for discussion regarding stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Talk about the positive and negative stereotypes of elderly people portrayed.

  3. Ask students if they ever hear people talk about "kids these days" as though all kids are the same—and all "bad." Ask, "How do you feel about that?" Relate these words as words of prejudice reflecting stereotypes and any resulting discrimination.

  4. Compare this to stereotypes of individuals who are elderly.

  5. Point out the human needs (affective) we all have regardless of age: to feel useful, loved, and wanted. Although the following needs are important at any age, point out the relevance of these needs among individuals who are elderly: to be independent, to feel connected within society, to give to others, to grow and feel vital, to be respected and to be valued as a person.

    Invite a guest speaker to talk about myths and realities of individuals who are elderly. Use Am I Ready to Serve? (handout) as a guideline for information to gather. This can be given to the guest speaker ahead of time and previewed by students prior to the presentation. Information should be shared within a 10-15 minute period of time.

  6. Session Two

  7. Arrange students into small groups of approximately five students each. Provide each group with a children's book (may be a YouTube version) relating to positive portrayals of elderly people. For the purpose of this lesson, the following books are suggested:

    • Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
    • Gramma's Walk by Anna Grossnickle Hines
    • Grandpa's Song by Tony Johnston
    • The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins by Lester L. Laminack
    • The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant
  8. Assign a student to read the book to their group. Before, during and after the reading, each student in the group should respond to the appropriate prompts using Responding to Literature (handout).

  9. As a whole group, the speaker for each group will share the summary (chosen by the group)

  10. While individual teams report using Images of the Elderly (handout) as a guide, the teacher will record the needs of the elderly met in the story, as well as the lasting impressions of each story.


Working in small groups, students write a verse to a song (lyrics decided in Lesson Two: Center Stage—Focus on Poverty). Read the chorus created by the class in Lesson Two. It includes the importance of acting without discrimination based on prejudice and stereotypes.

The guidelines for writing the verse must include: the task (general description), skills necessary to successfully carry out the task, and key guidelines for sensitively interacting with people who are elderly. Students should use information gathered and recorded on Am I Ready to Serve? (handout) as a resource guide.

The verses created in this lesson (as well as the chorus and verses created in Lesson Two) should be saved for use later in Lesson Five: The Final Act—Reflections and Revisions.

Cross Curriculum 

Suggested service projects (see Bibliographical References) relating to this lesson topic may include: Record a memoir Elder call-in Coupon exchange Friendship box Senior sandboxes/home repairs

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the task and the student role.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.
      3. Benchmark MS.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.