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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

Old Age Simulation Exercise for Children

Written by  BY YEN YU CHU, MELAKA / TRANSLATED BY WONG MUN HENG

Huang Qi Jun, with gloves on and impaired vision, was struggling when using the chopsticks to pick up food. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

Forgetfulness, clumsiness and slowness in learning are part and parcel of growing old. To the children, old age is so distant, and as such, they may not be able to feel for the elders. So, how do we teach the children to appreciate, respect and love the elderly?


 

In 2014, using the “Sutra of Filial Piety” as guide, coupled with the use of Jing Si Aphorism, the Da Ai Educare Centre, Melaka, designed a curriculum on “birth, age, sickness and death”. Then, in April this year, Dharma stories related to filial piety were introduced. This was followed in May, with experiential activities on pregnancy and delivery; and from June to August, the children learnt how to take care of babies, and in the process, appreciate their parents’ efforts in their upbringing.
 
 
In August, the old age simulation exercise was introduced in the kindergarten to enable the children to learn to respect and care for the elderly. In the first week, they learnt about the physical and psychological aspects of the aging process. The following week, they learnt to use small articles like reading glasses, hearing aids or ear plugs. The third week saw them donning on reading glass, hearing aids, gloves, weights on their legs (weights varied according to age group) and a basket on their back. They carried on with this full set of “extras” for two weeks of half-day experience. The 4-year-olds, however, were given lighter weights on their legs and only a week to bear the “extras”.
 
 
Play and learn at the same time
 
 
Led by teacher Wang Jia Min, children from the Age 4 class watched the sign language stage performance of “Sutra of Filial Piety”, sketches, and short video presentation. They also learnt how to greet and serve tea to the elders.
 
 
In the wink of an eye, the children suddenly became old, had long-sightedness, difficulty in hearing, hunchback and the loss in dexterity. Through games, and with a full set of “extras” on, they had to learn to walk, bend their backs, pick up items from the floor and massage each other. The children were amused with the funny “attire” and had fun experiencing what the elderly have to go through in life. It is hoped that through this exercise, they would have learnt how to care for the elders, and hence would spend more time with them.
 
 
No longer agile
 
 
The Age 6 children were very excited right from the moment they started to make the reading glass. The parents filled the colourful sandbags with all sorts of things, ranging from sand, tea leaves, rice grains to pebbles. The sandbags were then used to tie around the children’s legs. The aim was to put the children in the shoes of the elderly, and make them experience impaired vision, difficulty in hearing, loss in dexterity and walking difficulties.
 
 
Huang Qi Jun’s head almost touched the desk as she was trying very hard to write. She complained, “It’s too difficult, my eyes are blurry, and it’s very hard to write. I can’t turn the book pages, it’s too slippery.” Although the teachers had enlarged their writings and raised their voices, the children kept saying: “Can’t see it!”, “Where to write?”, “Teacher, is this the right way of writing it?”, “Can’t hear clearly”, and so on.
 
 
Huang Yu Qin was trying to help his friend to take some confectionery from the bowl; but he had difficulties removing the cover of the bowl with the gloves he was wearing. In the meantime, another child, who was holding the heavy tray, complained, “Hurry up, the tray is very heavy!” Tried as they did, they could not speed up. Finally, with the help of others, the cover was removed. Next, they had difficulty in picking up the confectioneries with the tongs. After much fumbling and struggling, they finally picked one piece and placed it into the bowl; and then they had difficulties dislodging the pastry from the tongs. What was a seemingly easy task had become so strenuous. The task was finally completed after much efforts and time consumed. Yu Qin shook his hands and said, “My hands are aching! So hard to hold.”
 
 
Empathy and patience
 
 
In the past, Chen Jun Hao was always very impatient and used to complain that his grandma walked too slowly. With the weight tied to his leg, he discovered the difficulty and pain in walking. Recently when his grandma had a fall, he was very helpful in getting things for her. He said, “I would walk slowly with her. A bit worried if she falls again. I’ll wait for her and never hurry her.”
 
 
Jun Hao also mentioned, “I have taught grandma many times on the usage of mobile phone. Somehow, she can’t remember. But, I’m not angry with her. I’ll keep on teaching and helping her.” Classmate Lin Zi Xuan chipped in and said, “My grandparents thought I have already started schooling and frequently asked me about it. But, I’m not mad with them. Just explain to them nicely each time.” Now that the children have understood about the loss of memory associated with the aging process, they do not feel upset by the frequent nagging of the elderly.
 
 
Zi Xuan mentioned that his family visits his grandparents daily; and when dining, he would help to serve food to his grandparents. This is because he knows it is not easy picking up the food with chopsticks especially when he was wearing gloves. Jun Hao said, “I’m still small. So, I have not been serving food to grandma. Instead, she feeds me. I’ll learn to take care of grandma.”
 
 
Reflect and change
 
 
Lai Wan Ping needed to drag her weighted legs slowly whenever she needed to go to the toilet. After much time and effort, she finally managed to get to the toilet but without her reading glass, she said, “When inside the toilet, I could hardly see!” Chen Ye Le concurred, “Yeah, me too! I had to remove the reading glass!” But, the elderly with impaired vision do not have this option. Teacher Xu Xiu Zhen also asked the children if the elderly with hunchback have the option of moving the baskets (improvised hunchbacks) to the front if they want to sit more comfortably.
 
 
Teacher Xiu Zhen explained that the activity enabled the children to think and reflect on how they have been treating the elders, thereby changing their attitude towards the elderly. With this experiential activity, the children had the hands-on experience in empathy, and hopefully, they would be more respectful and considerate to the elders in their life.
 
 
 
 
This was the first experiential learning about the elderly organized by Da Ai Educare Centre. It is hoped that, with such life’s lessons from young, the children would understand and appreciate the elderly better. Having understood the issues pertaining to old age, the children would be more patient in caring and supporting the elderly. Hence, they would be more cultured and filial in dealing with the aged when they grow up.

 

 

Teachers putting on the full set of gear on Age 4 children in order to let them experience the inconvenience suffered by the elderly. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]   Teacher Wang Jia Min letting the Age 4 children experience the joy of being massaged. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

Teacher Wang Jia Min letting the Age 4 children experience the joy of being massaged. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
Teachers putting on the full set of gear on Age 4 children in order to let them experience the inconvenience suffered by the elderly. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
In the past, Chen Jun Hao (first right) was always very impatient and used to complain that his grandma walked too slowly. With the weight tied to his leg and gloves on, he discovered he was very clumsy. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]   Although the teacher enlarged the wordings and raised her voice, the children still complained of the difficulties of seeing and hearing. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

In the past, Chen Jun Hao (first right) was always very impatient and used to complain that his grandma walked too slowly. With the weight tied to his leg and gloves on, he discovered he was very clumsy. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
 
Although the teacher enlarged the wordings and raised her voice, the children still complained of the difficulties of seeing and hearing. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

 

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