Aging and Disability Sensitivity Training

A Hands-On Training Approach to Working with Older Adults and Individuals With Disabilities

Have you ever stopped to consider where you’ll be at age 85? Centralina Area Agency on Aging (AAA) staff often ask this question in aging and disability sensitivity training to encourage participants to think about the aging experience. The aging population is growing in the U.S. and by 2040, about one in five Americans will be age 65.

Centralina AAA, in an effort to help increase awareness of the challenges this demographic will face, began offering aging and disability sensitivity training. These hands-on classes walk through several exercises designed to build understanding and in turn, improve customer service, when working with individuals who are older and/or living with disabilities. Centralina AAA initially offered sensitivity training to the staff of long-term care facilities across the region. In recent years, however, the training has expanded to include elements of customer service and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into the curriculum.

“ADA training is a great opportunity for both private and public entities to make sure they are providing equal opportunity for everyone to access services, programs and activities,” reflects Centralina AAA staff Patricia Cowan, a certified ADA trainer.

Age sensitivity training was created by Lee Health, a Florida-based non-profit healthcare system, to improve care among its hospital nursing staff and more efficiently communicate with older adults by building empathy, understanding and patience. It simulates common challenges associated with aging and disability, including hearing and visual impairments. Participants are also encouraged to de-bunk common myths about aging and to explore whether our perspectives on aging are positive or negative.

This interactive training has been well-received throughout the region’s aging network at traditional locations such as nursing homes and senior centers but has been surprisingly eye-opening for less traditional audiences such as emergency responders, fire departments, law enforcement, taxi drivers, Duke Energy, Lowe’s and the banking industry. “Our aging and disability sensitivity class is in high demand among businesses, agencies and healthcare providers,” explains Centralina AAA Director, Linda Miller. “The number of older and disabled adults is increasing rapidly, so it makes sense to train all staff who interact with them.”   

Centralina staff recently participated in this training exercise as well, wearing gloves to simulate the loss of dexterity in the hands and tinted glasses to represent vision loss and impairment. Using these props, staff then went through a series of ordinary, daily tasks including sorting medication by color, signing your name (using the opposite hand) and taking off and then putting back on an article of clothing like a shoe, watch or buttoned jacket.

Centralina Area Agency on Aging came to our site and did an amazing, informative job training our employees in regard to ADA requirements and elder abuse and gave a hands-on demonstration on the aging process. I will be scheduling them back next year. My drivers all were very happy with the time spent!

Bruce Kester, Compliance Officer, Iredell County Area Transit System

Centralina offers a variety of training to share best practices for working with older adults and people with disabilities. This information can be beneficial for staff members personally and professionally. Contact Centralina AAA at or 800-508-5777 to learn more about these topics including:

  • Aging sensitivity
  • Aging and disability awareness
  • ADA training
  • Dementia Friends
  • Elder abuse awareness