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senior citizens

Started by kaysixteen, March 25, 2024, 11:24:32 AM

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For the last 4 years I have been volunteering to teach classes for a local senior citizen foundation (though one need not actually be a senior cit to join this group and take classes from it).  They used to have a physical location in our community, but they lost the lease during covid and have more or less just been doing Zoom classes since then (although some classes are outdoors, and they occasionally do take advantage of using pub libraries).  The classes have not been particularly well subscribed on Zoom, because the tech is clearly very hard for some of the patrons (at 56, I am almost always the youngest person in any class I do, and I regularly get students clearly old enough to be my parents).  I do not get paid for these classes, though the students (unless they are also teachers, who get to take classes for free) do have to pay, $150/yr for membership and then $50/class, and many may well not know that I am not being paid.  Occasionally there have been unrealistic expectations from some of them wrt class materials, slides, etc., that I really do not have the time or often also the $ to set up.   These classes have no readings, though I do send around a list of books they could get, and of course there is no written work, nor any academic credits to be earned. And because of the age of the students, I generally take a very laissez-faire attitude towards behavior, with many of the students just not showing up all the time, many meandering in and out of the room where their computer is, obviously disengaged, etc., behavior that I could not and would not tolerate from kids taking a class for any manner of academic credit.  Some students also drop out of classes without offering any feedback, and sometimes the feedback given is as noted unrealistic, with regard to my lack of offering various materials, etc.   But something that threw me for a loop last week was when an elderly woman wrote to tell me she was done with the class, both because of a lack of such materials and because the other woman who had shown up to last week's class was behaving in exactly the sort of disengaged and disruptive way I mentioned, and I did not do anything about it.   I have written the director of the foundation to ask for advice, but am not sanguine that any such useful advice will be forthcoming.   Anyone have any experience with doing anything like this, or care to offer any suggestions?


Its seems to be appropriate to do most of what you are doing unless someone becomes very disruptive by talking over you or just walking around aimlessly in front of people. Especially if that repeats, you may wish to ask someone to stop, and if they don't, ask them to please choose another class.  But generally speaking, this is a total freebee for everyone, so expectations should be fairly low. However, there are plenty of groups like this during which everyone behaves.


I would probably discuss these items during the first class.  Tell them that you are a volunteer teacher and have a day job.  Explain that you are happy to do this and will try to make the course as enjoyable as possible, but there are limits on how much time you can dedicate.  Understanding this may help them adjust their expectations from you.

At this time, I would also lay out your expectations and that the quality of the class for everyone requires some level of order.  I wouldn't be too concerned about attendance etc., but disruptive behaviour impacts everyone. 


  WHAT subject are you teaching? That makes a difference! I never taught seniors (and I am one myself now)
 and in some ways, they are no different than other students. Some are serious and others are not. Regardless, they need rules enforced and structure, not laissez faire. So they take advantage of your easy ways and do nothing. Learning English is rewarding because they want to learn. Or computers. Or their health, very important! Or retirement issues. If you are teaching English, humanities or science, that encourages indifference to most people.
     How old are they? A big difference between younger ones and those over 80. Age 55-70 is better. Seniors are like everybody in that they like to talk, gossip, doodle notes and hang around. They get away from their homes and want to meet others. Not always to learn new things.  Hands on learning usually works, if possible. Keep lectures to 20 minutes or less. Tell a couple jokes.
   I don't envy your role because it is hard to maintain tight control. Maybe you can begin class on time, of course, with a fun activity (like clipping coupons) before you begin or use it as an incentive. Most seniors are very thrifty.

Good luck.


If people are wandering around in the background of the participants and being distracting, ask those participants either to find a more isolated location or to turn off their cameras. If other people in their vicinity are making noise, ask them to mute their audio.

I think it's irrelevant that you don't get paid. The seniors are paying for this experience, and $150 + $50 may be a substantial amount for some of them. They deserve a well-put-together, non-chaotic learning environment. If you can't provide it at your current pay rate of 0, then maybe this is not the right time to offer the class. It would also be a kindness to issue a list of not just titles, but where they can get the materials. For instance, many texts are available online free at Project Gutenberg (provide a link to the specific text) or at (provide a link to the specific text). Or at least give them an Amazon link. It's unproductive to expect, say, twelve seniors to each do the legwork of finding where to acquire the text when you could do it once for all twelve. If you're going to teach the class, you might as well make it a valuable experience — or what's the point at all?