The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

New York pupils taught how to talk to ‘boomers’ without giving offence

- By Susie Coen

TEENAGERS in New York are being taught how to speak politely to baby boomers in a bid to combat ageism.

Lessons given to Gen Z pupils at 13 public high schools include guidance on using the term “older adult” instead of words that denote frailty such as “senior”.

Other classes lessons amount to watching videos of older people doing yoga and callisthen­ics, as well as spending time with them in person.

The teenagers are also taught how to make connection­s between their own discrimina­tion – such as not being treated seriously at work – and that experience­d by older people.

Student Imani Stanback, who attends the School for Human Rights in Brooklyn, told the Wall Street Journal the lessons have made her more patient with her grandmothe­r.

Chayil Charles, 17, said prior to the classes she did not know the word “elderly” was “a bad thing”.

“I thought 60 and up was very old,” she said. “But the class really changed my mind.”

Ageing commission­er Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, who previously described ageism as an “insidious form of discrimina­tion”, said “senior is a loaded term”.

She said the goal of the program is to bring “the two bookends of our city, the youth and older adults … in conversati­on”.

Ageism is defined as discrimina­tion against older people because of negative and inaccurate stereotype­s.

Last month MPs claimed many of the 3.6 million over-50s are dropping out of the UK workforce because of “ageist” companies.

A Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee report blamed businesses for the recent exodus of older workers, saying unfriendly policies were the cause rather than a wave of early retirement.

Lucy Standing, co-founder of Bravestart­s, which provides over-50s career support, told the committee that discrimina­tion against older workers is “rife” and said outdated recruitmen­t processes were blocking people from making career changes.

In the US, around 3.5 million people are missing from the labour force, two million of which are thought to have retired, according to Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The pilot scheme was launched across Brooklyn after high-school students undertook an internship with the city’s Department for the Aging. They had reportedly noticed that evil characters in children’s books are often old.

The curriculum is also being incorporat­ed into an economics course. It is hoped learning about ageism in employment will help fight discrimina­tion in the workplace.

Other suggested lessons include oral history projects in which students would interview older adults about their lives.

Announcing the scheme earlier this year, Eric Adams, the New York City mayor, said it would “help our city’s youth recognise biases, so they can dismantle what may be their own and other people’s ageist views”.

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