Time: 1-3 hours
Materials: Copies of Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (UDHR)
1, Facts about the Elderly Population in the United States
2, Three Case Studies
3, Questions on Human Dignity
Blackboard or chart paper, chalk or markers
Setting: High school - Adult groups
focuses on some of the human rights concerns of those who are old and
poor in the USA. It draws on data from US Census and case studies to
highlight the issues and provides opportunities for local interviewing
and the development of participant action projects.
the abbreviated list of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Note:
This activity assumes some understanding of human rights and the UDHR.
If this is not the case, provide basic background information, such
as the brief history included in this book, concentrating on the theme
of “those rights/needs to which everyone is entitled.”
2. Ask participants
to identify needs that seem to become increasingly important to people
as they grow old in this country. Briefly discuss their reasons for
selection. Ask how these needs would be affected if the aging person
were also poor.
3. Ask participants
which of these needs they think are also human rights. Encourage participants
to refer to the articles in the UDHR. Make a chart of those needs identified
as human rights and label it “HUMAN RIGHTS/NEEDS.”
4. Move deeper
into the topic through the following questions:
ways might income level, sex, race or ethnicity, disability, age,
location of residence (urban/rural) affect the sorts of concerns
that an elderly person might have? Note: Divide into groups
for a brief discussion with each assigned one characteristic.
the list of concerns generated above be any different from the list
one might develop for people in their thirties or forties? Explain.
kinds of services (e.g., medical, housing, transportation) do people
tend to need more often as they grow older?
special kinds of living conditions (e.g., buildings with elevators,
wheelchair access, social support) are older people more likely
of the human rights identified above are in danger of being violated,
of being denied, and in need of protection?
Handout 1, Facts about the Elderly Population in the United States.
Ask participants to decide whether or not these facts match with
their earlier statements. Ask them to identify additional facts that
they need to determine the accuracy of their statements. Ask participants
to generate non-statistical factors that affect one’s wellbeing, such
as feeling valued or discounted, happy or sad, lonely or included,
competent or helpless, and loved or rejected, that might also shed
light on the conditions of the elderly.
class into groups and assign each a case study from Handout 2, Three
Case Studies. Ask them to complete Handout 3, Questions on
Human Dignity. Explain that they have thirty minutes to complete
this task. Check with each group to be sure they understand the instructions
and have established a note-taking procedure. Remind them when ten
minutes and five minutes remain.
each question and ask for a representative from one group to summarize
their discussion. Ask other groups to report only where their conclusions
differed. If time is limited, focus on the final three questions.
a. What issues do these
case studies raise for you about human dignity? About the relationship
between human rights and human needs? Between rights and responsibilities?
b. Do these
factors affect the making of local and national policies aimed at
helping the elderly achieve full human rights? Encourage the participants
to consider other factors as well.
the groups to interview elderly persons in their community. This involves
identifying interviewees and creating a list of questions. These interviews
might be a building block for the development of a participant action
plan to address the human rights needs of the elderly poor in their
community. (See Step 10, Taking Action below.)
participants to summarize their learnings about the inter-related
nature of human needs and rights and the challenges confronting the
elderly poor in this society. They might wish to learn more about
some of the following topics:
for the elderly to supplement social security or pension income;
outreach and educational programs for the elderly;
Security and Medicare: past, present, and future challenges;
and aging: attitudes, demographics, and income characteristics;
patterns in the community: living alone, with family, or in nursing
perspective on growing old in the community.
consider the questions below as building blocks for developing an
action plan on behalf of the elderly poor. Note: Refer to the
activity Community Research and Action Plan, p. 42, for
additional questions and a framework for developing an action project.
Raffi Hagopian, Laura Templeton, and Jose Flores (the cases in Handout
2, Three Case Studies) find support for their needs in your
there people with similar concerns living in your community? What
support do they get and from whom?
there elderly clients of social services agencies who can help them
assess the services from a human rights perspective?
anything that the participant group can do to promote and defend
the human rights of the elderly poor in their community?
by Sushanna Ellington, Human Rights Educators Network, Amnesty International
USA, and David Shiman. Adapted from F. Pratt, Education for Aging:
A Teacher’s Source Book (Acton, MA: McCarthy-Towne School, 1981).
THE HUMAN RIGHTS TEMPERATURE OF YOUR SCHOOL