When I posted about becoming an “old person in training,” I was talking the talk. Participants in a three-hour sensitivity training program called Xtreme Aging are walking the walk. Handicapped by glasses that blur vision, cotton that blocks hearing, and gloves that impair dexterity, they find out how hard it can be to carry out routine tasks like dialing a cell phone or fishing change from a purse.
Vicki Rosebrook is the executive director of the Macklin Intergenerational Institute, which developed the program. The catalyst was a quip three years ago from a teenage hotel clerk about Rosebrook’s husband’s membership in AARP. Fifty-two at the time, Rosebrook started thinking about ageist attitudes and the denial that fuels them. Firsthand experience, even of the virtual variety, makes for more intelligent and compassionate dealings with the old old, whether patients, customers, parents, or just the really slow-moving person between you and the cash register.