Young and old work together to challenge stereotypes of age

03 November 2011

Not many ten-year-olds may have considered what it’s like to be old. But two forthcoming workshops for Year 6 children aim to develop childhood understandings of later life and discuss the differences and similarities between people at various ages.

The workshops, entitled 'Act your Age! Challenging Stereotypes', form part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science 2011 and are organised by the University of Sheffield’s New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) research programme.

Sarah Howson and Charlotte Jones, who are co-ordinating the workshops, say: "Stereotyping in the media can lead to a negative understanding of older people. The workshop will use a variety of hands-on activities to help the children to consider their perceptions of older people. They will be asked to apply these ideas to their own lives and develop their self-awareness".

As encouraged in the Government’s Personal Social Health and Economic Education guidelines, the workshop will provide the opportunity for children to engage both with older members of their local community and the programme's Older People’s Reference Group. The older people will be invited to attend the workshop as participants, to explore and reflect on the issues of ageing alongside the children.

Through direct engagement with older people, the children will be encouraged to develop intergenerational relationships with members of the wider community and think collaboratively about ways of overcoming negative views of older people, as well as respecting their differences.

"The topic links in with several sections of the guidelines provided in the Key Stage 2 curriculum, such as exploring the ways that media present information and the ways that we understand people who are different from ourselves. In addition, it highlights key areas often neglected in children’s social education. These issues have relevance in children’s everyday interaction with others, as well as their own futures" says Sarah.

The participants will be asked to provide a list of positive and negative words to describe both older and younger people, followed by a 'getting to know you' session. Participants will use art and dressing up to express stereotypes of both age groups. The participants will examine how the media represent the ageing population in magazines, newspapers, commercials and TV shows and discuss how people are portrayed and the feelings this stirs up.

The participants will view photographs created by the NDA Project, 'Look at Me!' and discuss how the images challenge their preconceptions of ageing. To conclude the session, the first exercise of looking at positive and negative words will be repeated to see if there is any variation to opinions at the start of the session.

For further information contact

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors:

  1. Act your age! Challenging stereotypes
    Organiser: Sarah Howson and Charlotte Jones, New Dynamics of Ageing
    Date: 4 November 2011 10.00-12.00
    Venue: Prince Edward Primary School, Sheffield
    Audience: Suitable for young children
    For more information: Act your age! Challenging stereotypes
  2. The New Dynamics of Ageing Programme is a seven year multidisciplinary research initiative with the ultimate aim of improving quality of life of older people. The programme is a unique collaboration between five UK Research Councils - ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC and AHRC
  3. The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council which runs from 29 October to 5 November 2011. With events from some of the country's leading social scientists, the Festival celebrates the very best of British social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. This year’s Festival of Social Science has over 130 creative and exciting events aimed at encouraging businesses, charities, government agencies; and schools or college students to discuss, discover and debate topical social science issues. Press releases detailing some of the varied events are available at the Festival website. You can now follow updates from the Festival on twitter using #esrcfestival
  4. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils. We invest annually around £3 billion in research. Our focus is on excellence with impact. We nurture the highest quality research, as judged by international peer review, providing the UK with a competitive advantage. Global research requires that we sustain a diversity of funding approaches, fostering international collaborations, and providing access to the best facilities and infrastructure, and locating skilled researchers in stimulating environments. Our research achieves impact – the demonstrable contribution to society and the economy made by knowledge and skilled people. To deliver impact, researchers and businesses need to engage and collaborate with the public, business, government and charitable organisations. www.rcuk.ac.uk