I went to observe and take pictures of an activity at my son's elementary school yesterday. It was organized by representatives from Tokyo Gas. Each fifth grade class went to the gym at different times during the day. They had to take long pants and a long sleeved shirt to change into before the activity. They changed in the classroom.
Black suitcases were on the floor as we all went into the gym. The students sat in pairs on the floor at a distance behind the suitcases. The speaker explained that they would take turns experiencing what it would be like to be elderly. They would take turns being an elderly person and a guide. Everyone then moved next to a suitcase. The speaker asked two students to go to the stage to help demonstrate. She directed everyone on how to put on the contents of the bag. A PTA member assisted each pair of students.
First, the guide wrapped weighted straps around his partners' right foot and leg. Then he and the PTA member helped him put on plastic gloves, then cotton gloves and then a cotton half glove. Afterwards, he had to put on a vest by himself. They helped him adjust thick googles and earplugs in his ears. They handed him a cane. Then the guide escorted him to different stations set up around the gym.
At one table, "the elderly person" had to look something up in a thick, heavy dictionary. He read from a newspaper at another table and had to write his name at another.
A cassette player was set up for him to see what it was like to try to listen to something when hard of hearing. He had to count coins and pick them up and place them in a basket. He climbed the steps of the stage, walked across mats, and then down again.
He opened and poured water from a big water bottle.
He also stood in front of this bulletin board to try to figure out how many figures there were on each paper. The glasses made it hard to see.
It was a great activity. All of the students were engrossed. Everyone paid attention. No one misbehaved. My son said later that it was very interesting. I asked him what he had learned and he said that it was hard to do things when you're old. I asked him why it was important to know that. Maybe you have some ideas about that, too.