Can We Rethink Our 100th Day Celebrations?

Can we RETHINK our 100th Day Celebrations? | 100th Day is very popular in elementary schools, but unfortunately, many celebrations promote stereotypes of the elderly and ageism. There's a better way. |

This post has nothing to do with makerspaces or libraries, but it’s something I feel strongly about, so I’m addressing it anyway.

Full disclaimer here: 100th day celebrations seem to pretty much be an elementary school thing.  While I did sub as a media specialist in elementary schools early in my career, I’ve only been at the middle school level full-time, so I’ve never actually celebrated a 100th Day at my own school.

100th Day Celebrations – That time of year

The idea of 100th Day is to commemorate and celebrate making it through 100 days of the school year.  Seems like an odd marker to me, but a lot of schools do it.  While I don’t work in elementary school, I have a lot of friends and colleagues who work in elementary schools.  I also have a lot of friends with elementary age children.  And every year around this time, I start to see the pictures popping up on Facebook and Twitter of elementary age children (and teachers) dressed like “100 year olds”.  Do a Google image search of “100th day of school” and you’ll see example after example of children dressed up in old fashioned clothes, pretending to be bent over, using canes, with grey wigs, etc.  And every year I cringe and say nothing.


Howell B. Loper Sr, my grandfather
Howell B. Loper Sr, my grandfather

Ageism & 100th Day

But this year is different.   On March 6, 2016, my grandfather would have turned 100.  Sadly, we lost him almost fourteen years ago to pancreatic cancer.  And so it stings even more to me when I see these caricatures of what our society perceives 100 year olds to be like.  I would have loved it if my grandfather (or any of my grandparents) could have lived to see 100.  Up until the last two weeks of his life, my grandfather was in great health, golfing twice a week, never forgetting anyone’s birthdays, writing to his friends.  He had so much wisdom and so many stories from his long life.

So why is there this horrible perception that all elderly people are frail and incompetent?

I come from a sociology background.  We studied racism and sexism and all the other -isms.  But one that doesn’t get discussed as much in society at large is ageism.  I fear that, the way many schools celebrate 100th day, we are teaching our children that ageism is okay.

Decrepit.  Needing canes or walkers.  Wearing horribly dated and unstylish clothes.  Hair up in buns for the ladies.  Bald caps for the men.  Age spots drawn on.  Warbly voices.  And it’s children and teachers dressing up like this and laughing at how funny it is.

When we promote stereotypes of the elderly for #100thday we are teaching kids that ageism is okay Click To Tweet

We are teaching them that “old” people are something to be mocked, made fun of, disrespected.  That we have nothing to gain from them because they’re old and outdated and smell weird and ramble on about things.  We are perpetuating the horrible stereotypes that surround the elderly.

Rethinking 100th Day

What if we rethink 100th day?  What if we did away with the silly and offensive costumes and instead taught our students the value and wisdom of old age?  What if we had field trips to retirement homes and introduced our students to actual centenarians?  What if we Skyped with someone who was one hundred years old and talked to them about their life?  What if we looked at examples of the letters that American citizens receive from the president on their 100th birthday?  Or talked about the historical impact that the elderly have made?  Or important historical events that happened one hundred years ago?

100th Day can be a valuable opportunity to teach our students about how much we have to learn from those who have come before us.  Let’s not waste it by making a mockery of old age.

Let's not waste the opportunity to teach our students to learn from those that came before us. Click To Tweet

2 thoughts on “Can We Rethink Our 100th Day Celebrations?”

  1. I was just thinking the same thing when our district posted an IG pic of a kindergartener who used age progression software to make a poster of his future 100 year old self. It was horrifying!

  2. Some of this also does not sit well with me either, however with my son being in k we used the experience to discuss past and present. My son interviewed his 95 yr old great grandpa and learned what it was like to be a child in his era. He borrowed his wooden cane and showed it to his class. He earned respect for his elders. I think it is all in how the experience is delivered.

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