Undergraduate Social Work Students’ Knowledge of and Attitudes Towards Older Persons

By: Stephan Geyer  

Social work is one of the professions concerned with the welfare of older persons. After a review of various research databases, it was confirmed that in contrast to the developed world, there is a dearth of research amongst social work scholars in Africa and the global south, such as South Africa, regarding undergraduate social work students’ knowledge of and attitudes towards older persons. Hence, it was the goal of this study to determine and describe undergraduate social work students’ knowledge of and attitudes towards older persons. A cross-sectional survey was undertaken to determine the profile of respondents, students’ contact with older persons, their knowledge of old age (i.e., Palmore’s First Facts of Aging Quiz in multiple-choice format, 1996), and attitudes towards older persons (i.e., Fraboni’s Scale of Ageism, 1990). Through convenience sampling, 395 B Social Work students registered at two South African universities participated in the study. Seven dependent variables were compared with a number of independent variables, i.e., age, sex, year level of study, the area of childhood residence, the presence of an older person in the family, courses in gerontology, and consideration of working exclusively with older persons, in order to determine their mutual impact. Based on a Pearson correlation coefficient test as well as independent t-tests and ANOVAs, this study offers recommendations for initial and continuous professional training of social workers to prepare a cadre of gerontological social workers. South Africa, as a young, global south democracy, serves as a point in case.

Undergraduate social work students, Professional training, Older persons, Knowledge, Attitudes
Public Policy and Public Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Stephan Geyer

Associate Professor, Social Work & Criminology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Gauteng, South Africa

Dr Stephan Geyer is an associate professor in Social Work in the Department of Social Work and Criminology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is the programme co-ordinator of the B Social Work degree. He teaches both under- and post-graduate modules in research methodology, gerontology and substance aubse. His research interest include addiction/substance abuse and social gerontology.