The young man looked a bit worried as the woman brought the razor closer to begin shaving his richly-lathered face.
"I don't think I should have told him I've never done this before," she said.Another female student sat statue still as a young man inched the mascara brush anxiously toward her eye, his face fixed in concentration. "Be careful," she said, adding to his misery.
The Weber State College students were getting a first-hand look at the inconveniences of being elderly, and from the looks on their faces, the notion of growing old gracefully was taking quite a beating.
The students were participating in a death and dying class taught at Weber State and were trying to get a better understanding of what it means to be dependent.
"Part of the thing that happens as the body deteriorates is that you are unable to take care of yourself," said Roy Van Orman, course instructor and an associate professor of gerontology. "You come to the point where you can't do the things you've done for a lifetime. You have to rely on others," he added.
So students took turns putting makeup on the women, shaving the men and brushing each others teeth.
"It's hard to brush someone else's teeth," one student said. His companion agreed. "He keep gouging me. He didn't mean to, but he was."
"Try to do it with the patient lying down," Van Orman said.
Most people are not afraid of growing old, but they do not want to get to the point where they cannot dress themselves, shave, eat or perform everyday functions without help. They do not want to "be a burden," he said.
" `Being a burden' is this kind of stuff," Van Orman said.
Students who participated said they felt a great deal of frustration during the exercise, and most were nervous.
"I've been doing this in nursing homes for years, so it wasn't new, but in the nursing homes we have to do it so quickly that I didn't realize how it feels. When it was done to me, I realized what it's like," a young woman said.
Most of the students in the class will eventually work in some phase of elderly health care, and Van Orman hopes such experiences will give the students more empathy for their patients, he said.
"My request is that you be aware. The person who is dying is dying alone. The best thing you can do is provide as much quality in their life as you can," he said.