The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Productive Aging Concept and Social Work Students' Perceptions Toward Older Population: Preliminary Results of Pretest-Posttest Design

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Junghyun Kim, PhD, PhD, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Jaewon Lee, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Background and Purpose: Recently, a paradigm with a more optimistic perspective of aging has emerged in academic literature. Productive aging is one of the more salient aspects of aging; this concept covers all contributions of older adults to their own wellbeing and demonstrates how their productive aging benefits family, neighbors, friends, and community. The aging population has become one of the main target populations in the field of social work, and students of this discipline need to understand the lives and needs of older persons in order to improve their well-being. The object of this study is to examine whether or not the concept of productive aging has an impact on changing stereotypes toward aging in social work education through courses in social work students at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Methods: In order to analyze the impact of this concept on the students’ perceptions, this study uses ageism as a framework of the categorized ageism presented in Cuddy and Fiske (2002). This study collected quantitative data through a survey that assessed undergraduate and graduate social work students’ perceptions toward older adults. Following the initial collection of data, a lecturer presented information in a classroom setting about productive aging to the same social work students that were surveyed. To determine the effects of the lecture, this study used a one-group pretest-posttest design [O1XO2]. For the pretest, students responded to a scale about their perceptions of older adults. About a month after the survey, a lecturer presented information about productive aging to the students. The total sample consisted of N=144 (n pre-test=72 and n post-test=72). All of the students that participated were enrolled in a course at a university in south eastern U.S. The main analysis method was a paired samples t test.

Results: Students had stronger positive perceptions about older adults (M = 3.78) than negative perceptions about them (M = 3.52). The estimates of Cohen’s d effect size show approximately medium effects (0.406 < d <0.530, M (d) ≈ 0.5). In all cases, there were statistically significant differences in pretest and posttest scores on students’ perceptions about older adults. The students’ positive perceptions were stronger and their negative perceptions were weaker than before listening to the lecture on productive aging concept. Of the 14 items in this study, the lecture significantly changed the student’s rating on ten items. The lecture had a greater impact on decreasing negative stereotypes than increasing positive stereotypes about older adults.

Conclusion and Implications: The best lesson from the study is to describe the effect of education about productive aging on reducing negative stereotypes toward aging. The exposure to the optimistic concepts of aging may be successful in preparing students to work well with older clients in their practice. Implications are directed toward social work education that may encourage offering courses that enhance the positive aspects of aging to help prepare social work students to assist older clients. Social work education can facilitate the preparation of students interested in older clients’ needs.