Older Persons and Service Providers: An Instructor's Training Guide edited by Glorian Sorensen, MPH. New York, Human Sciences Press, 1981, 358 pp.
This book has great potential as a guide to the individual setting up a training program for paraprofessionale who work with the elderly. It is the result of a two-year demonstration project headed by the editor /author, and was field tested with the staffs of 75 different nursing homes and community agencies. The book begins with an introduction to the problems inherent in paraprofessional education - job dissatisfaction, poor communication, low status, etc. - and presents excellent ways in which the educator can work toward changing these feelings, using principles of androgogy as conceived by Malcolm Knowles.
The remainder of the book is just what it purports to be: a training guide. Each chapter begins with objectives to be realized, followed by suggestions for teaching the classes, even to the inclusion of exercises and questionnaires. This "cookbook" approach is alleviated by reprints of articles related to the subject matter of the day's lesson. These articles are meant for the edification of the instructor, enriching her/his knowledge of the subject so that he/she can better lead group discussion. At- the end of each chapter is a bibliography of books, articles, and audio-visual aids, again for the use of the instructor.
The most enjoyable portions of the book are the articles. Although they are uneven in quality, they contain much valuable information on the aging process, myths associated with aging, mental health, etc. One article on "Death, Dying, and Grieving" is especially valuable, particularly in regard to the psychological factors that seem to be related to one's ability to survive gracefully in the face of loss of function.
It is easy to criticize a "cookbook." The experienced instructor would chafe at the carefully structured and prescribed methods of presenting material. In this regard, the book is reminiscent of the Red Cross teaching manuals, which are extremely clear and well done but leave nothing to the creative imagination of the teacher. However, many of the people who teach paraprofessionals are not experienced instructors. It is for these individuals that this book has been put together. It is valuable generally because of the reprinted articles it contains, and its generous bibliographies. It can be recommended for the inexperienced instructor working with highly unsophisticated learners. If paraprofessionals working with older adults were all to be taught by instructors using this text, the level of care given to older Americans, particularly those in institutions, would increase greatly in quality. This book could make a difference.