Abstract: Process and Outcomes of Teleconference Training for Older Adult Volunteers (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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145P Process and Outcomes of Teleconference Training for Older Adult Volunteers

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jessica Cassidy, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Kathy Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Noelle Fields, PhD, Assistant Professor, The University of Texas at Arlington, TX
Background and Purpose: Social distancing is the first line of defense in controlling the spread of COVID-19. These measures impact not only individuals, but also community-based research. For gerontology researchers, there is a pressing need to continue research during COVID-19, particularly in developing interventions to help mitigate social isolation and loneliness. In response to challenges of conducting research during a pandemic, researchers may utilize teleconferencing for assessments and interventions. While some researchers highlight older adults’ capacity for mobile technology (Geraedts et al., 2017), others argue older adults show a greater level of engagement over the telephone compared to the internet (Cox et al., 2017). However, there is a lack of evidence on feasibility or usability of digital tools with older adults as part of a research study. The purpose of this report is to examine the feasibility and usability of teleconferencing with older adults participating in a community-based volunteer training. The study examines rates of enrollment and adherence as well as presents training procedures and the participants’ experiences with the training.

Methods: Caring Callers is a program that connects older adult volunteers with homebound older adults via friendly phone-calls made once every week. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted Caring Callers volunteer training using Zoom teleconferencing platform. Training materials were printed, organized in binders, and mailed to Caring Callers volunteers prior to hosting the meetings. Upon completing the training session, we assessed the overall training experiences of volunteers through individual interviews that included questions related to the usefulness of the training including challenges and areas for improvement. Content analysis was used to quantify patterns in the training and interview transcripts. In addition, we calculated rates of enrollment and adherence of participants during the recruitment and training process.

Results: We reached out to 39 volunteers about the Caring Callers training, and 20 volunteers (51.3%) successfully completed the training (18 joined over the phone & 2 joined online) (Average age=73). Overall, participants agreed that the training was helpful for their volunteer activities and expected roles in the program. The role play (n=6) and how to refer resources (n=6) were most frequently mentioned as the useful aspects of the training among the participants. Many participants said the manual was self-explanatory and helped them to better understand the training. The majority of the participants said it was not difficult to engage in the teleconference training and/or that it was not much different from an in-person training, however, three participants shared that the training was challenging because they used a landline phone or it was their first time. A few volunteers suggested shortening the training and including greater interactions with other volunteers.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings of this study provide insight for gerontological researchers regarding effective methods for completing research in the midst of COVID-19. By sharing feedback obtained regarding the Zoom training, it is hoped researchers working with older adults may be better equipped to mitigate research challenges imposed by COVID-19.