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close this bookPeace Corps Training and Older Volunteers (Peace Corps, 1985, 12 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentBecoming a trainee
View the documentThe Training program
View the documentThe physical environment
View the documentThe learning environment
View the documentLanguage learning
View the documentConclusion

The physical environment

Modifications in the physical setting may facilitate learning for older Volunteers. Peace Corps training sites are usually less than optimal for any learner. Practical modifications which can be accomplished easily and discreetly should be effected.


As a person becomes older, it becomes more and more difficult to see in dim light and there is greater sensitivity to glare. Night vision diminishes and adjustment to changing light intensitities is less rapid.


Levels of illumination should, where possible, double that required for younger trainees and be more diffused.

A flickering, single light bulb is the worst type of lighting for anyone. Steady, multi-source, intensive lighting is the most desirable.

For easy reading, demonstrations against a neutral background are best. Contrasts in color, large charts and legible writing on charts and blackboard should be provided whenever possible. For typewritten material, double space on a pica typewriter is best.


Hearing changes begin in the early thirties (particularly for men). There is usually a slight loss in high and low threshhold sensitivity and pitch discrimination and slower response to auditory stimuli. Particularly under stressful conditions rapid speech is more difficult to follow. Older Volunteers may wish to be certain of correct judgement before responding and they may choose not to respond rather than risk a hasty, uncertain response. The older listener normally experiences no problems when speech is clear, undistorted and without competitive noises or stimuli. When words are overlapped or interrupted, the ability to hear and respond greatly diminishes.


Allow for flexible seating arrangements which permit individuals to move closer to the speaker and the materials. Trainers should discipline themselves to speak clearly and distinctly, directly to the group, without increasing the volume. Good enunciation and repetition of unfamiliar names and words improves communication. To summarize, repeating questions and key points should become familiar tools to all Peace Corps instructors to improve understanding by the Trainees.


There is a decrease in the ability of the body to respond to temperature extremes as the years increase and the body has more difficulty maintaining its normal temperature.


Plan to avoid training locations or situations where there are rapidly changing indoor and outdoor temperatures.

Physical Mobility and Exercise

With aging there is a general slowing down of the body. Older persons may tire more easily or need more time to accomplish physical tasks. Although they may not require more sleep, they may require more rest, especially if the sleeping pattern is intermittent. The older person usually has less tolerance for stress, overeating, skipping meals, dehydration and salt depletion.


To reduce fatigue, training sites or classrooms should be easily accessible. Additional energy used for physically negotiating a training site detracts from the energy available for learning. Training staff should provide regular and complete meals, adequate liquid and regular rest times even while traveling to a different location. Areas for rest and privacy should be included in the choice of location.

Physical activity should be varied to include all ages. Individuals or small groups should be encouraged to develop their own physical activities with minimal equipment. Exercise is important for everyone and should include older trainees.

Considerable thought should be given to the selection of live-in sites for older trainees. Access to roads, availability of regular and adequate meals, attention to noise levels and privacy should all be considered. Older Volunteers adjust well to diverse living situations, albeit a bit more slowly. The choice of the live-in location should be made with care at the beginning or the end of the training program.