Abstract: Effectiveness of an Intergenerational Service-Learning Program to Change Knowledge and Attitudes on Aging (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Effectiveness of an Intergenerational Service-Learning Program to Change Knowledge and Attitudes on Aging

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Sara Bartlett, MSW, Student, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Phyllis Solomon, PhD, Professor, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Zvi Gellis, PhD, Professor & Director, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
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 more didactic course. Other studies have evaluated intergenerational service-learning interventions but lack a comparison group or multiple outcome measures. An important goal of effective service-learning with older adults is to generate interest in pursuing social work careers in aging. Unfortunately, a lack of interest in serving older adults has resulted in this population being under-served by the social work profession and we need to begin to implement strategies to correct this situation.

Methods: The sample consisted of students in an upper division, undergraduate Psychology of Aging course at a public university in a semi-rural area of California. A quasi-experimental design using a convenience sample compared pre-test and post-test scores between an experimental intervention (N=66) and a comparison (N=65) 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 group were implemented.

The experimental intervention, The Lives Well Lived project, was based on a documentary film about successful aging and involved five learning encounters in which students and older adults interviewed one another about living a life well lived. The comparison group included two short social visits to a congregate meal program.

Analysis included descriptive statistics and equivalence of intervention and comparison groups using T-tests or Chi-square tests for gender, race, previous developmental psychology knowledge, relationship with grandparents, social desirability, and outcome measures; and multiple regression of within group equivalence between quarters and treatment facilities. 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 change scores on outcome measures between intervention and comparison groups with these analyses controlling for relationship to grandparents to ensure equivalency of the two groups.

Results: The hypothesis was partially supported. At post-test, the intervention group had a significantly lower score than the comparison group on the FSA Antilocution sub-scale (B=-3.062, p=.005) and FSA total score (B=-4.703, p=.019) when controlling for relationship to grandparents. Thus, there was significantly less ageism for those in the experimental intervention. On the other outcome measures, the two groups did not significantly differ.

Conclusions and Implications: There was a significant effect for this intergenerational service-learning intervention on the outcome of ageism. This intervention shows some promise. Programs that are more relational, in-depth, and longer than more minimal programs may be useful for consideration in undergraduate psychology or social work courses in reducing ageism. Such courses may have the potential for increasing interest among students for careers in the fields of aging and social work.