"Into Aging" A Simulation Game by T.L. Hoffman and S.D. Reif, Thorofare, New Jersey, Charles B. Slack, Inc, 1978.
It is said that in order to know about aging, one must experience it. Into Aging is the next best thing; a simulation game that allows us to experience the problems of growing old. In this game, players assume the identity of an elderly person with certain goals. They are provoked or stimulated to examine more closely their own aging processes, attitudes, and values about old age. The game is intended for use as a tool for any group who needs and desires a greater understanding of the perspectives and problems of the elderly. Five to 15 people may play the game at one time. However, by using more leaders, larger groups can play the game effectively.
At the beginning of the game, players assume the name and age of someone over 60. They are asked to list their residence and three valued posessions on index cards and to choose an object that represents their occupation. Each player is given income chips and selfimage chips for use in the game. Keeping or losing these items will depend on the circumstances encountered.
The game consists of three stations representing independent, semidependent, and dependent living for the elderly. The players begin at the independent table and move to the semidependent station when directed by the life event card or loss of income. All players will eventually arrive at the dependent table or nursing home. As players move from table to table and as they continue to choose life event cards, they may receive labels such as "senile" or sensory loss props such as hearing aids or eye patches. The labels are attached to the players' foreheads for others to react to. The players do not know what is on the labels.
As players become more dependent, they must also forfeit some of their income and self-image chips as well as their residence card and valued possessions. By the time they reach the dependent station most players have lost everything. Players in the nursing home may choose a life event card that indicates they have died. At this point, they are out of the game and are taken to the cemetery to observe theother players. Players who have had a great number of negative life events may be discreetly offered "suicide" by the leaders. The game ends when the leaders determine that all players have had significant experiences. Each game should end with a debriefing session with the opportunity for all players to relate their experiences and feelings.
The success of the game depends, to a great extent, upon the leaders. Part of the effect of the game is accomplished by the sarcasm and humor of the table operators as well as the sense of power they convey. Although the authors give some limited examples, the table operators and the General Overall Director (GOD) must be knowledgeable about aging, its stereotypes, prejudices, and double standards. Without this knowledge and the ability to involve the players in the experience, the game will fall short of its goal. Their ability to facilitate discussion during the debriefing session is also an important task.
As the authors state, this game is not generally fun for the players. However, the experience can facilitate a look at attitudes and feelings and help to develop sensitivity among those working with the elderly.