“Polyester Pants and Orthopedic Shoes”

Introducing Age Studies to Traditional-Aged Undergraduates


  • Erin Gentry Lamb Hiram College




This article describes several in-class exercises that can be used to introduce basic age studies concepts to students within one class setting. These exer- cises, built around the Age Assumptions Survey and grounded in age studies theory, are designed for use with traditional (late-adolescent) undergraduates but could be used with other populations and across disciplinary settings, such as graduate or professional students in fields ranging from the human- ities to the social sciences to the healthcare professions. These engagement exercises are intended to (1) introduce age as an identity category that is vari- ably defined and, at least in part, socially constructed; (2) reveal students’ basic assumptions and stereotypes about aging and old age; and (3) pro- vide a limited introduction to ageism. The exercises are designed so that the students generate both content and analysis, structurally forcing students to confront the limitations and ageism in their own assumptions about aging and old age. The self-generated nature of the critique encourages students to accept their own biases rather than profess their impartiality.

Author Biography

Erin Gentry Lamb, Hiram College

Erin Gentry Lamb is an assistant professor of biomedical humanities and Director of the Center for Literature and Medicine at Hiram College, where she regularly teaches courses in age studies. Past chair of the Modern Language Association’s Age Studies Discussion Group and the National Women’s Studies Association’s Aging and Ageism Caucus, she currently serves on the Executive Council of the North American Network in Aging Studies (NANAS) and on the Editorial Committee of Age, Culture, Humanities. Her work appears in such publications as The Journal of Medical Humanities, The Health and Humanities Reader, and The International Journal of Aging and Society.


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How to Cite

Gentry Lamb, E. “‘Polyester Pants and Orthopedic Shoes’: Introducing Age Studies to Traditional-Aged Undergraduates”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 223-38, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v1i.129972.