Ashley Binns, Michelle Gray, & Oliva Orsak University of Arkansas – Office for Studies on Aging & Human Performance Laboratory, Fayetteville, AR

Ageism, a set of discriminatory or prejudicial beliefs against an adult because they are “old” is more pervasive than sexism or racism, but goes largely unstudied. Although negative attitudes toward older adults are more prominent among young adults, education has a significant impact on attitudes toward aging. Education modality most influential on perspective change has not been elucidated. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine changes in perceptions of older adults among undergraduate (UG) students following education sessions, aging simulation, or service-learning project participation. METHODS: A total of 99 UG students (21.8 ± 0.9 years) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: education group (n = 57; EDU), who attended an educational lecture on aging; aging simulation group (n = 24; AS), who performed functional tasks wearing an aging suit; or service-learning group (n = 18; SL), who participated in a service project at a local retirement community. Before and after participation in their assigned intervention, participants completed the Aging Semantic Differential Scale (ASD), a survey designed to determine attitudes toward older adults and used to assess ageism. ASD composite scores (ranging from 1-100) were used to assess perspectives on aging; the larger the composite score, the more negative the perception of aging, and vice versa. RESULTS: General perspectives on aging were negative among all groups. However, there was a significant change in perspectives on aging from pre- to post-intervention between groups (p < .05). There was not a significant change in perspective, positive or negative, among the EDU (p = .83) or AS (p = .35) groups. Among the service-learning group, there was a significant improvement in perspectives on aging (p < .05). CONCLUSION: Results from this study indicate UG students generally have a negative attitude toward older adults. While exposure to aging in the form of educational lectures and aging simulation provided for no change in overall attitudes toward older adults, participation in the service-learning project at a retirement community most positively impacted UG students.

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