Methods: A quasi-experimental design using a convenience sample of undergraduates in Psychology of Aging classes compared pre-test/post-test scores between those participating in a virtual version of the program via Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic (N=109), the experimental group, and those participating in-person prior to the pandemic (N=69), the comparison group. The Facts on Aging Quiz (FAQ) Multiple Choice version, Aging Semantic Differential (ASD), and Fabroni Scale on Ageism (FSA) were administered before/after the service-learning intervention was implemented.
The intervention, The Lives Well Lived project, was based on a documentary film about successful aging and involved five learning encounters either in-person or virtually in which students and older adults interviewed one another about living a life well lived.
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 conditions. There was a significant difference between groups at pre-test on the FSA, affected by group differences of Antilocution subscale. 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 pre-test FSA Antilocution to ensure equivalency of the two groups.
Results: Several significant results indicated that virtual versus in-person delivery of the intervention was not equivalent. At post-test, the in-person group had a significantly lower score than the virtual group on the FSA total score (B=-7.122, p=.002), as well as on all subscales including Antilocution (B=-3.533, p=.00), Discrimination (B=-1.82, p=.021), and Avoidance (B=-1.808, p=028) when controlling for pre-test Antilocution, gender, and race. Thus, there was significantly less ageism for those doing the in-person intervention, but the two groups did not significantly differ on other outcome measures.
Conclusions and Implications: Compared to virtually, in-person delivery of the Lives Well Lived program was more effective in decreasing ageism among student participants but otherwise equivalent in effects on knowledge and attitudes about aging. This difference was possibly due to the relational intimacy embedded in the program, which requires students and older adults to truly get to know one another, thus combatting stereotypes inherent in ageism. Despite college students’ comfort with technology, intergenerational relationships may thrive most when face to face, potentially increasing interest among students for careers in the fields of aging and social work.