Effectiveness of an Intergenerational Service-Learning Program on Increasing Knowledge on Aging, Creating Attitude Change Regarding Older Adults, and Reducing Ageism

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Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
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social work
successful aging
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Social Work
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Background and Purpose. This study evaluated the efficacy of an intergenerational service-learning program administered to undergraduates to determine if it would increase knowledge about aging, improve attitudes about older adults, and reduce ageism more than a predominately didactic course with limited service activity. An important goal of effective intergenerational service-learning is to generate interest in pursuing social work careers in aging with the underserved older adult population. Methods. The sample consisted of students in an undergraduate Psychology of Aging course. A quasi-experimental design using a convenience sample compared pre-test and post-test scores between an experimental intervention (N=68) and a comparison (N=71) group over the course of two academic quarters. The Facts on Aging Quiz (FAQ) Multiple Choice version, Aging Semantic Differential (ASD), and Fabroni Scale on Ageism (FSA) were administered before and after a service-learning intervention and comparison predominantly didactic course with limited service activity. Participants also answered open-ended experiential questions. Analysis included descriptive statistics, within group equivalence between quarters, and equivalence of intervention and comparison groups using T-tests or Chi-square tests. No significant differences were found between intervention and comparison groups at pre-test other than relationship to grandparents. Hypotheses were tested using multiple regression analyses to determine significant difference in outcome scores between intervention and comparison groups, controlling for relationship to grandparents. Qualitative analysis consisted of thematic analysis. Results. The hypothesis was partially supported. The intervention group had a significantly higher reduction in Net Bias on the FAQ and a significantly lower score than the comparison group on the FSA Antilocution sub-scale. On other outcome measures, the two groups did not significantly differ. Qualitative analysis showed those in the experimental intervention placed more emphasis on intergenerational relationships and expressed more behavioral intentions related to aging. Conclusions and Implications. There was a significant effect for the intervention on the outcome of bias and ageism. Programs that are more relational, in-depth, and longer than didactic courses may be useful for consideration in undergraduate psychology or social work programs in reducing ageism. Such courses may have the potential for increasing interest in careers in the fields of aging and social work.

Phyllis Solomon, PhD
Zvi Gellis, PhD
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