Perpetuation of ageist attitudes among present and future health care personnel: implications for elder care


Dr S Lookinland, Professor, Department of Nursing California State University-Fresno Fresno, California 93741-0025, USA


The population of the western world is greying rapidly By the year 2025, people over the age of 65 will make up 20% of the population of the USA By the year 2000, one-half of elderly people in the United Kingdom (UK) will be over the age of 75 The increasing numbers of elderly people will be spending from 18% (males) to 27% (females) of their added years as impaired, disabled and frail individuals The purposes of this comparative descriptive study were to (a) describe and compare the attitudes of registered nurses (RNs) and health career work study students (HCS) who work with elderly people in the clinical setting, and (b) determine whether relevant demographic variables of the two groups were related to their attitudes A convenience sample of 82 RNs and 68 HGSs were asked to complete Kogan's (1961) Attitudes Toward Old People Scale (KOP) Response to the survey was 91% and 74% for the HCS and RN groups respectively There was a significant difference between the group mean scores with students holding less favourable attitudes toward elderly people on the KOP-negative scale No significant difference was found on the KOP-positive scale Point-bisenal correlations between demographic variables and attitude scores revealed that gender and ethnicity were significantly related to RNs attitudes—males and blacks and Asians expressed more unfavourable attitudes Educational level and primary area of clinical work were significantly associated with students' scores on the KOP-negative scale, while years of clinical experience was significantly related to KOP-positive scale scores While both groups held attitudes that were more favourable than unfavourable, RNs and HCSs expressed stereotypical views about old people in general Recommendations for nursing education and nursing service are proposed to prevent the negative impact on future care elderly people that the findings suggest