The aging population in the United States is estimated to reach 98 million by the year 2060. Promoting successful aging is important in maintaining the quality of life and independence for the growing population of older adults. Further efforts to provide comprehensive healthcare for older adults may help maintain independence; however, careers in geriatrics are less sought after, resulting in fragmented and costly healthcare. This lack of interest in geriatric careers may be impacted by a lack of exposure to these careers. To address this concern, the present study evaluated the effect of a brief social intergenerational interaction for both young and older adults with the following aims: 1) to evaluate the effect of social interaction on older adults’ cognition, social and psychological well-being; and 2) assess the effects of intergenerational interactions on young adults’ changes in attitudes and anxiety about aging, quality of communication with older adults, and interest in careers in geriatrics.
Ninety-two older adults living in assisted and independent living communities participated in either a social or control group and completed a battery of cognitive and social well-being measures. Older adults in the social group were recruited to meet with students and share their life stories. Thirty-seven undergraduate and graduate students completed questionnaires prior to meeting with older adults in the social condition. Students and older adults met weekly for three consecutive weeks. The students wrote a book about each older adult’s life story, which was printed and presented to the older adult in a fourth final visit at the end of the semester. Participants then completed post measures.
Results demonstrated changes in older adults’ performance on measures of attention and executive functions in both the social and control groups; however, mean differences appeared to be larger for the social group. There were reductions in older adults’ negative reactions to thinking about aging and lower levels of aging anxiety in both social and control groups. Young adults reported a decrease in anxiety about interacting with older adults and improvement in views about emotional well-being with aging. Additionally, young adults demonstrated an improvement in the quality of their communication skills.
Qualitative data revealed themes of developing a meaningful connection, learning about each other, and challenging of previously held beliefs for both the young and older adults. In addition, older adult participants reported feeling valued and shared their views about the program. Young adult participants shared how they learned factual information about the world through these interactions and felt this was a valuable experience that provided them with skills necessary for their future careers. Brief intergenerational social interactions can provide cognitive and social benefits for older adults as well as improve college students’ attitudes towards older adults.
|Commitee:||Grilli, Matthew Dennis, Mehl, Matthias R., O'Connor, Mary-Frances|
|School:||The University of Arizona|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||DAI-A 82/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Clinical psychology, Social psychology, Social research|
|Keywords:||Aging, Intergenerational programs|
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