Decades of research demonstrate a link between ageist attitudes and behaviors and both physical and mental health outcomes. While there has been little evidence that past interventions have successfully prevented ageist perspectives and practices, there is now an intervention that would help decrease ageism within residential care settings.
In a study that earned a Bronze 2021 Innovative Research on Aging Award, a team of gerontologists created a video-based intervention on Ageism (VIA), serving as a training video for staff working with older adults in long-term service and support settings. Coupled with facilitator instructions and reflective workbooks, the video addresses how ageism is recognized, communicated, and transmitted. It also includes examples of how ageism occurs among individuals, institutions, and cultures, as well as examples of skills that can disrupt ageist practices. The intervention, created in 2018, was tested using four focus groups and intermittently modified based on feedback before being pilot tested by 70 staff members in eight assisted living locations.
The VIA was administered to 266 staff members in 15 senior living locations. To monitor its efficacy, participants first completed a survey that included questions targeting anxiety about aging and both positive and negative ageist behaviors. After watching the VIA, participants were immediately questioned about whether it changed their perspective on aging. Three months later, they were also asked a series of open-ended questions examining whether the VIA would impact their job performance.
The VIA was a success! After participating in the VIA, 71% of participants expressed that it was important to change their attitude about aging. Additionally, 90% of participants indicated that they planned to take at least one of 20 proposed actions to change their approach to ageism. Most participants continued to express desired sentiments regarding ageism three months later. For instance, negative ageist behaviors, such as talking louder or slower to an older person, significantly decreased over time.
Researchers concluded that the VIA had a long-term impact on the ways in which participants think and feel about aging and ageism, in addition to how they behave and communicate with elders. Results ultimately provide insights on how ageism can be addressed through implementation of similar interventions.
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Gendron, T, Cimarolli, VR, Inker, J, Rhodes, A, Hennessa, A, Stone, R. The efficacy of a video-based intervention to reduce ageism among long-term services and supports staff. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education. 2021:1-15.