Abstract: Comparative Effectiveness of Virtual Versus in-Person Delivery of an Intergenerational Service-Learning Program to Change Knowledge and Attitudes on Aging (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Comparative Effectiveness of Virtual Versus in-Person Delivery of an Intergenerational Service-Learning Program to Change Knowledge and Attitudes on Aging

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Valley of the Sun E, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Sara Bartlett, DSW, Lecturer, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA
Phyllis Solomon, PhD, Professor / Associate Dean of Research, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Background and Purpose: This study evaluated the effectiveness of a virtual intergenerational service-learning program administered to undergraduates compared to the same program delivered in-person. As college students are typically accustomed to virtual methods of communication and learning, the hypothesis was that virtual delivery would be as effective as in-person delivery at increasing knowledge and positive attitudes about aging and reducing ageism. Service-learning programs seek to generate interest in social work careers in aging. Covid-19 limited in-person opportunities for older adult/student interaction and increased older adult isolation. Virtual programs potentially influence undergraduates’ views on aging, while providing safe, physically distanced socialization.

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.