Learning about old people, 1979

Cover page for a 12-year-old's project on Old People. Drawings of very old people, false teeth, walking stick and words: deaf! sad! Happy 99th! weak! wrinkled! bald!
Cover page for a 12-year-old’s project on Old People in 1979

What did this child learn about old people in 1979? What was the teacher aiming to achieve with a project on Old People? A 12-year-old’s cover page shows drawings of false teeth, walking stick and some comical old people—including one who is belting along at top speed. As for the words chosen for the cover page: deaf! sad! Happy 99th! weak! wrinkled! bald!

The Q&A test about old people shows a more balanced view emerging. Here’s a sample:

Problems of old people? walking, eating, seeing, hearing, winning Olympics. Qualities of old people? Experience, wisdom,understanding
Truth from a 12-year-old, and it’s not all bad

So far I’ve acquired three of the old people’s problems he mentions: problems with seeing, hearing, and winning Olympics. It’s nice that he also names these qualities of old people: experience, wisdom, and understanding.

This 12-year-old knew his four grandparents. He considered them kind and thoughtful, and worried about one grandmother who was badly afflicted by arthritis.

A child says old people have kind and thoughtful feelings. His grandmother's problems with arthritis were managed but never solved.
A fairly accurate impression of this child’s grandparents.

The writer is now in his 50s. Funny how that happens. Knowing my vested interest in old age, he passed his old schoolbook on to me. He is now a kind and thoughtful person himself. (He always was.) Also, very funny. (He always was.)

Have you got any such treasures stashed in a cupboard somewhere? So much has changed in the classroom. But the people in the classroom are still learning, thinking, playing by the rules where they must and stretching the rules when they can.

12 thoughts on “Learning about old people, 1979

  1. Old people might have trouble “winning Olympics.” Oh, how priceless!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      He’s a funny boy.

  2. I seem to recall having trouble winning the olympics when I was young too!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Durn! I forgot to win a gold medal. My life has been wasted.

  3. QP and Eye says:

    Love this! We recently reread some of our daughter’s school stories about how we go swimming in our underwear !!! (Never in our wildest moments did we do that). But the teachers comment if “You have an interesting family !!” Was priceless. x Linda

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      There’s that whole other life you were living in your daughter’s mind. Was it wishful thinking, or a misunderstanding about underwear?

  4. I remember thinking 23 was very old when I was 17 eons ago. The 23 year old in question would always worry about wrinkles and slather on vats of anti-aging cream because she was almost a quarter of a century old. Definitely couldn’t have won the Olympics back then :)..sigh..rough life 🙂

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      The 23-year-old was, relatively, much older than you were as a mere teen. And about the Olympics: never mind, you gave someone else a chance to win a gold.

  5. judibwriting says:

    Ah, the Olympics! I coulda shoulda woulda but yes, now I’m gasp- too old!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      The opportunities we missed! Always too busy to win and now it’s too late. Very self sacrificing, mind you.

  6. cedar51 says:

    I never knew my grandparents – other than people/other boarding school students – assuming the old folks who sometimes picked me from the hostel were my GRANDPARENTS – they weren’t they were my actual parents and granted Dad was already in his 70s, Mother not far behind. And they did have grandchildren, from my siblings were much older than I. These same hostel mates, often thought my sister (that sibling is the only one left, turned 95 this year) was my mother, as she was nearly always the driver!

    I thought very much like your 12 year old – I was of course a few years older. They certainly weren’t active – Dad was basically bald, Mother was well and truly the silver haired fox. They had my Dad’s WW1 war pension (because in today’s world he would be disabled, war injury) but they weren’t broke, had sold their farm when I was about 4 years old and moved into the township…

    Having no grandparents I had no idea what that meant but if we are talking old – I had them as parents… Lost them both in my 20s . And before you feel sorry, I wasn’t – Mother and Me (or is it I) were constantly at loggerheads from time I could make an argument!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That could have confused you for life about old age. And it must have been strange at school, seeing the grandparents of others. Thanks for sharing this story.

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