GERO 1300: Introduction to Gerontology
The objective of this paper is for you to gain an understanding of the “life course” of an older adult. The “life course” includes information from the earliest memories to the current time. This project will give you an opportunity to critically think, apply, and evaluate the theories, perspectives, and concepts you have learned in this course.
As you know, Gerontologists define aging in terms of: Chronological aging: number of years since the individual’s birth; Biological aging: changes that reduce the efficiency of organ systems; Psychological aging: Memory, learning, adaptive capacity, personality, and mental functioning; and Social aging: Social roles, relationships, and the overall social context in which we grow old. This project will give you a glimpse of all facets of aging and the life course of an older adult.
Basic Steps to the Project/Paper:
- Selection of the Interviewee: For this paper, you need to select and interview an individual over 65 years of age. This interview will shade light on the gerontological experiences and events that has shaped his/her life.
- Reviewing the Literature: Review at least two sources (scholarly books and/or articles) from the library or online sites. These sources should be related directly to the topic (aging).
- Collection of Data: You will need to contact your interviewee to arrange a time and place to conduct the interview. Choose a quiet place with few distractions for your interview. Explain the purpose of your study and assure the interviewee that she/he can choose to remain anonymous in the written paper. Explain that there are no “right or wrong” answers. You should not only be interested in her/his opinions and experiences about the questions you have prepared but also in other issues the interviewee thinks as relevant. You should either electronically record or take notes during the interview. I recommend doing both. This allows you to listen to the recording later to expand your notes. In your note-taking, emphasize the interviewee’s comments and attitudes toward aging. Keep in mind that she/he may make comments even when you have not specifically asked for it. In fact, these comments often turn out to be the most interesting and informative part of the interview.It’s helpful to have a backup interviewee in case the person you plan to interview can’t make it.
- Presentation of the Collected Data: The collected data should be presented in the descriptive/narrative formats. Tell a good story about the rich life of your informant. Write up the interview by briefly summarizing the individual’s life, then discussing her/his attitudes and perceptions of old age. Also, briefly introduce the person and provide some background information about her/his life. Be sure to address all of the questions listed below.
- Relate the Data with Concepts Learnt in Class: You should bring together the collected data, theoretical perspectives in your text, as well as the two additional reviewed sources. Make sure to include quotes from all your sources.
Interview Questions and Topics
Here are some specific questions and topics you can ask and discuss with your interviewee. Try to get your interviewee to address these topics to the best of her/his ability. Some of the older adults will have a lot to say, while others will require more prodding. In general, older adults love to talk about ‘the good old days,’ their experiences and achievements.
- Date and place of birth, parents’ occupation and education, number and sex of siblings, place in birth order.
- What life was like growing up (where they grew up, their house/home; games, toys, and play; work and school; friends and neighbors; fondest memories; most sad memories; historical events).
- Young adulthood (college and/or work; dating and marriage; family and children; place of residence; fondest memories; most sad memories; what was life like at this age).
- Middle adulthood (children maturing and moving away; children’s successes and failures; first grandchildren; changes in work, job, career; relationship with spouse; holidays, trips, and vacations; fondest memories; most sad memories; what was life like at this age).
- Older adulthood (children and grandchildren; relationship with spouse; work, career and retirement; health; hobbies; holidays; fondest memories; most sad memories; what is life like at this age).
- What is it like to get older? Is it good or bad or neither?
- What does she/he consider to be the best time in her/his life?
- If she/he could change something about her/his life, what would it be?
- Does your informant feel “old?” How old is old?
- What is the best thing about getting older? What is the worst thing?
- What does your informant think about society’s views of old age? In her/his opinion, how are the older adults treated in the U.S. today?
- What can be done to help the older adult population?