ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to explore the long term effect of a service learning project on medical and nursing students' knowledge in aging and their attitudes toward older adults. A total of 124 students were recruited and then randomized to intervention group (IG) and control group (CG). A pre-and-post-intervention design measured students' knowledge in aging (using modified Palmore's Fact on Aging Quiz) and attitudes toward older adults (using Kogan's Old People Scale). A total of 103 students completed all the activities and questionnaires. After the intervention, there were significant differences between the IG and CG on Palmore's mental health (MH) (P = .04), Palmore's total score (P = .02) and Kogan's negative attitudes toward older adults (P = .001). All students increased their positive attitude toward older adults after the intervention. However, both the IG and CG showed a decrease in positive attitudes 1 month after the interventon, and such decrease varied, depending on the programme which students attended. The current study showed that the 10-week service learning activities significantly increased medical and nursing students' overall knowledge of aging and their understanding of mental health needs in old age, and reduced their negative attitudes toward older adults. However, the effect is not long-lasting. On the other hand, its effect on positive attitudes toward older adults cannot be concluded. Periodic contacts with older adults via service learning activities may be needed to sustain attitude change toward older adults.
Advances in Health Sciences Education 10/2011; 17(4):529-45. · 2.09 Impact Factor