Methods: Data were collected from a cross-sectional survey of students in a large comprehensive university located in the Midwestern U.S. Student participants were recruited via email and in-person by student research assistants who were positions in common spaces on campus (N=1,040). To measure students’ level of ageism, a revised version of the Fraboni Scale of Ageism (FSA) was used (22 items). To measure students’ knowledge of aging, the survey also included a fifty-item questionnaire, based on the Facts on Aging Quiz (FAQ). Several questions on students’ frequency and quality of interactions with older adults were also included. In terms of the analytic strategy, we report the level of ageism among the sample students, followed by estimating ordinary linear regression models of ageism on knowledge of aging and interaction with older adults, with controlling for the observed demographic characteristics.
Results: The findings suggest that college students have a moderate level of overall ageism; the mean score on the 22 items was 1.9 on a scale ranging from 1 to 4 (sd=0.35). When looking at the different dimensions of ageism, the mean score on the stereotype sub-scale was particular higher than others (mean=2.1). In terms of the factors associated with ageism, we found that students with more knowledge about aging tend to have a lower level of ageism. We also found that more frequent interactions with older adults are associated with lower levels of ageism, but only when the interaction is perceived pleasant by the students.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings suggest that the level of overall ageism among college students may be at a moderate level, but their stereotypical perceptions towards older adults is still a problem that asks for attention. Furthermore, the results highlight that more knowledge on aging and frequent and positive interactions with elders have the potential to reduce ageism. This suggests that academic institutions may benefit from employing initiatives that provide students with more opportunities to engage with older adults and engage in greater efforts to educate them about aging.