Gerontology in the New York State Family and Consumer Sciences Curricula: Ten Year (1989-1999) Review

Article excerpt


In the late 1980s, New York State was one of the first to develop a class curriculum solely devoted to study aging at the high school level. Family and consumer sciences educators were targeted to deliver the gerontology course in an attempt to meet the goals ofa comprehensive state policy on aging. After over a decade of existence, a survey was conducted among family and consumer sciences educators to measure the proliferation and usage of the course. Survey results revealed low acceptance of the gerontology course among educators. Discussion of what can be learned by other education systems from the New York State experience has been included.


Demographics indicate that during the next twenty years the older population (those 50+) will be the largest age shift in our society (Atchley,1997). Approximately 78 million baby-boomers (Atchley, 1997) will be responsible for the significant rise in ranks of those eligible for membership in the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Predicting that this shift would occur between the mid-1990s and the year 2020, some states began to develop initiatives in the 1980s that would prepare young people for the demographic shift in society. Though the focus of this paper is a longitudinal examination of New York State's attempt at including gerontology in secondary public school curriculum, it would be useful to note other states' achievements in providing a broader context in which the New York State experience can be compared. Connecticut, Mississippi, and Texas are examples of states with over ten years invested in developing methods and curriculum for including gerontology in secondary curriculum. Each state has taken a different approach for the inclusion of gerontology in educational programs.

Connecticut's approach to the infusion of gerontology focuses its efforts in providing excellent resource guides for specific pedagogues. A six-part series, Schools in an Aging Society, was developed to promote awareness and education of aging concepts in elementary and secondary settings (Department of Education and Aging, State of Connecticut, 1992a, 1992b, 1992c, 1992). As part of this series, three activity guides were created and targeted specifically to the secondary-level disciplines of health and home economics, social studies, and language arts (Department of Education and Aging, State of Connecticut, 1992a, 1992b, 1992c, 1992). Though specific aging courses have not been created or mandated for Connecticut educators to teach, a model called AGES (Advancing Generations' Education through the Schools) was developed almost in tandem with the activity guides (Couper and Pratt, 1999). The AGES model served as a planning guide for one school system (Fairfield, Connecticut) in the integration of aging concepts within the school. The AGES model focused on promoting aging topics in schools through staff development. The Connecticut approach could be summed up as a focused, multidisciplinary domain approach fox integration of aging topics. Three key domains (health and home economics, social studies, and language arts) were targeted through private and public funding of the Connecticut Aging Awareness Project, but the actual integration was left to the educator. No curriculum changes or mandates were put into place to require teachers in these areas to use the resource guides or teach about aging.

Much like Connecticut, the state of Texas has been doing some exciting things in relation to a multidiscipline approach in aging education. Beginning at the elementary level, Texas has appointed educators in the field to create aging curriculum models for future use by the state (Couper and Pratt, 1999). Texas has taken an additional step beyond Connecticut by not only trying to provide teachers in elementary and secondary levels with aging exercises, but also a curriculum in which these activities are to be carefully placed. The majority of these efforts have been funded and encouraged by the National Academy for Teaching and Learning about Aging (NATLA), housed at the University of North Texas. …