Too little, too late?: Can an integrated empathy-building intervention shift gero-attitudes for undergraduates in an online course?

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
S. Sudha, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: By 2050, 22.1% of the United States population will be 65 years or older, increasing the demand for well-trained, enthusiastic professionals to serve them. At the same time, later life is frequently pathologized, and there continues to be a preference for youth by those who are yet to be old as well as older adults themselves. The growing divide between this expanding cohort and gero-focused professionals is exacerbated by the under-emphasis on gerontology in undergraduate higher education and the substantial shift toward online instruction and larger class sizes in the U.S. In this quasi-experimental study, researchers examined whether a gerontology-focused empathy-building intervention (EBI) in 2 semesters of an online undergraduate course on aging changed students’ attitudes toward older adults, aging anxiety, and interest in gero-focused careers, compared with 2 control semesters taught without the EBI. Statistical results showed that neither the EBI nor course completion without the EBI significantly shifted students’ gero-attitudes and interest, suggesting the necessity of earlier and varied interventions to combat negative stereotypes about aging. Qualitative results provided some indication of the possible impact of the EBI. We describe study design, implementation, challenges, and areas for future intervention and study.

Additional Information

Gerontology and Geriatrics Education
Language: English
Date: 2021
ageism, gerontology, aging anxiety, empathy, higher education, online learning

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