SRV in the News: “Reading, Writing and Retirement”
Recently, an article in the Toronto daily, the Globe and Mail caught my attention. “Reading, writing and retirement” reports on a program in a nursing home in British Columbia where a Kindergarten class takes place twice a week in the common room. The article presents a glowing report of the program and claims that similar programs elsewhere have helped to increase student’s standardized test scores, while at the same time lowering medication rates among nursing home residents.
As a student of SRV, this program set off several alarm bells. While the intentions of the parties involved certainly seem admirable, especially their attempt bring together younger and older generations, both the heightened vulnerability of the elderly and the image cost incurred by the elderly in such a program, seem to point to unintended negative consequences for the residents of the nursing home.
Since the early 1970s, Normalization and later, SRV theory, has pointed out that the elderly are at risk of being seen as “eternal children” or in their second childhood (see Wolfensberger, 1972 and Wolfensberger, 1998). Placing a kindergarten class in a nursing home unfortunately reinforces these stereotypes. As I commented upon in an earlier posting, the elderly are severely devalued in our culture and therefore face a heightened risk of being susceptible to damaging stereotypes. As Wolfensberger has pointed out, those who are viewed as eternal children or as in their second childhood will be seen as having limited potential for growth and change. Grouping elderly people with children, in programs and activities that we would normally see as age-inappropriate, only increases the chances that people will believe the above stereotypes.
The development of a program such as this raises several questions. For example, if a Kindergarten class can have success in a nursing home, why not develop a program based around a university or college level class? Conducting a philosophy or history class in a senior’s residence would be much more age-appropriate. Secondly, why hold a class in a nursing home at all? This violates the principle of what we call in SRV “culture-appropriate separation of life functions”. In terms of image, a program that arranged for seniors to take classes in universities and colleges in the wider community would likely be the most enhancing option.
See this link for a brief video about the program.
Click here for an article on SRV and aging from the 2003 International Social Role Valorization Conference in Calgary.Tweet
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: elders, news media, seniors, Social Role Valorization, SRV, Wolf Wolfensberger