The purpose of this activity is to learn what it is like to be older—middle aged or older. You will need to find a person who currently is older than 45 and is willing to be interviewed by you. I suggest someone that you have a personal connection such as a parent, grandparent, family friend, or similar. You may need to interview the person over 2-3 sessions to get all of your questions answered. I encourage you to conduct the initial interview in-person to make the interview more comfortable. It is acceptable to conduct the interview using a video chat or telephone if that is the only way to interview the subject (for example, a grandparent who doesn’t live nearby). After the first interview you may use telephone or e-mail to ask follow-up questions. Remember to be respectful
You will need to understand more about this period in the lifespan (broad age category would be 45 and up). Areas such as biological changes (vision, skin, hair, strength, weight gain, health, lifestyle factors); cognitive changes (memory, expertise, job/career, practical problem solving, learning new languages, learning technology, wisdom); and socioemotional changes (relationship, married or single, divorced, if parent–where at in family stage, importance of friendships) are broad areas to focus on. To learn more, you should be reading, as a minimum, the textbook.
Think about life for older adults and issues likely to surround this person. Example: if person in middle age: how to deal with becoming “middle age” and idea of “getting older”, does this mean a mid life crisis; late adulthood and retirement; mortality issues–someone own age dying and the impact on own sense of mortality. Now consider what you want to learn about from this interview and begin to plan the questions.
Included is a list of sample questions for you to use. Feel free to make up questions of interest to you – be sure to gain information about key areas that relate to the aging process.
How to write report of the interview and what to include in report
1. The report must be typed, 2500-3000 words in length (8-12 double-spaced pages), and submitted by uploading the paper onto Blackboard. Do NOT send me your assignments using e-mail.
2. Include the interview questions and answers in narrative form (for example: My interview subject has been married for 32 years). Do not list the questions and answers as a numbered list.
3. The report should begin with: Who did you interview, why did you choose this person, where did you meet for interview. Include a summary of the person, such as their age, occupation, information about their family. To protect the confidentiality of the person, please do not include the person’s name.
4. Discuss your personal reaction to what you learned from the interview at the end of your report. You should answer the following questions: What did you learn in general about interviewing an older person? What did you learn about aging? What were your expectations? Were they realized? Did the interviewee conform to stereotypes about aging? Why or why not? Do you think you’ll be like the person you interviewed when you get older? What was the highlight of the interview? Were there any tense moments from topics you discussed? Describe the incident and how you resolved it.
How to design and conduct interview
Design questions that will highlight areas of interest for you. Start by looking at the list of possible questions provided for you. Feel free to add as many other questions as you like.
Read through and pick out questions to use, and/or plan your own set of questions. You do not need to be rigid about sticking to your list of possible questions. You may find that open-ended questions are especially good at gaining information. Review your question list before the interview. You may want to review them again for the interviewee.
Begin the interview by telling the subject that you will be asking some questions, but he or she should feel free to expand on the topic or talk about related ideas. Each interview session should be 30-45 minutes long. Set a definite schedule for the interview (such as 3-5 minutes per question) and stay on that schedule. Either tape-record the session (with your subject’s permission) or take thorough notes. If a subject’s answers are too brief or uninformative, follow up with questions like, “Why did you choose X?” or “Why do you think X happened?” If something the subject says seems important, follow up with additional questions, like “Tell me more about X.”
Rapport building is important. It is your job to ensure your interviewee is comfortable, communicate this to the person. Remember, you are interested in your subject’s life and ideas. Be careful to limit talk about yourself, or talk about your own experiences during the interview, except as a way of encouraging your interviewee to talk. If topics seem uncomfortable for your interviewee, attempt to put them at ease.
Design the interview based on your own curiosity and the person you are interviewing. Included is a list of sample questions. Read through and pick out questions to use, and/or plan your own set of questions. You do not need to be rigid about sticking to your list of possible questions. If something mentioned particularly interests you, feel free to insert more questions based on earlier answers. You may find that open-ended questions are especially good at gaining information.
Possible Questions for Interview
Possible aging questions
Do you consider yourself old? At what ages (or stages) did you notice that you were getting older? How do you feel about changes? What is the most important historical event or period of time that you have lived through? How did it influence you personally? What is the biggest change you have seen in how people conduct their everyday lives? What have been the best years of your life so far? How are young people today different from when you were their age? What advice would you give young people to help them prepare for their old age? Have you ever experienced any negative attitudes or discrimination because of your age? Please explain. What are your plans for the future? How do you want to be remembered? What things have you accomplished that are important to you? What things do you have left to accomplish? Do you fear dying? Why or why not?
Possible Relationship questions:
How did you meet your husband/wife/partner? How long did you date? What was a typical date like? When did you decide to get married? Describe each of your roles in the marriage? How did you come to have these roles? How have these roles changed? Do you have children? How many? How has having children changed your marriage? Do both of you work? How do you manage? Who takes care/took care of children? What is the bravest thing you ever did? If you could be any age again what age would you choose? And why? What do you like the best about this time in your life? What is the best thing about being middle age, and what is the worst thing? What are the most important problems facing the world today?
If you could give one piece of advance to younger adults to prepare them for reading midlife adulthood what would it be?
Childhood & Teen Years
Please tell me about your childhood, family and school life. Where did you live your childhood? Where else did you live? How many brothers and sisters do you have and where do they live? What is your relationship like now that you are older? What was it like to grow up in your hometown or neighborhood? Tell me about your early schooling. Describe the first person you dated or your first dance. What were the dating practices like? What was the most difficult about being a teenager? In your younger years what did you do for recreation? Is there a particular song you associate with that time of your life? What was the funniest experience you ever had with a child (yours or someone else’s)? What was your scariest moment as a parent? Or the scariest moment you experienced with any child? What was the best trip or vacation you ever took? Why was it so special? What was the best thing about this part of your life? The worst thing about this part of your life?
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When you were a child, what job did you want to have when you grew up? Where do you work and what is your current job? Where do you work? Can you talk about what a typical day at your current job is like? Which jobs do you think are the most prestigious? Who among the people you know has the most interesting job? What is it? Why did you leave your last job – did you resign or were you sacked? What was your first paid or volunteer job? What are your interests or hobbies? Do you have a favorite hobby or activity? What things do you do well? What is the best thing about your career? What is the worst thing? How have working conditions changed in recent years? Do you look forward to, or dread retirement? Why? Has retirement been a good or bad experience? What advice about preparing for retirement would you give to young adults?
What are two of the most important changes you have seen in the world in your lifetime? How do you think family life has changed over the years? Are these positive or negative changes? What major events in history do you remember? Do you enjoy a slower pace now, or are you as busy as ever? If you have had to slow down because of age, what activities to you miss? Do you have grandchildren? Do you enjoy being a grandparent? Do you see them often? How is being a grandparent different from being a parent? What things do you get to do now that you couldn’t do when you were younger? What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in your lifetime? Which person did you admire most during your lifetime? Was there another public figure you particularly admired? What age has been the best age of your life? Why?
What are the most important problems facing the world today? What do you see as the major problems of college life? How do you think older adults and students can help each other? What contributions have you made to make the world a better place to live? What contributions would you like to make in the future?
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