• geriatrics;
  • undergraduate medical education;
  • student attitudes;
  • patient attitudes

Research suggests that nonclinical interactions with older people may enhance medical students' traditionally poor attitudes toward this patient group. Although extensive literature has reported on student attitudes, seniors' perspectives of their relationships with younger healthcare professionals (HCPs) are generally unknown. This study explores students' and seniors' perceptions of aging and the influence of these perceptions on medical practice before and after a recreational, intergenerational event.

In March 2006, the Schulich Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario held its second annual “Intergenerational Gala.” Approximately 150 seniors and students were invited to complete a brief pre- and postevent questionnaire exploring attitudes toward aging, care of older people, and HCP training.

After the event, approximately 60% of students did not feel that their curriculum contained adequate geriatrics content, and more than one-third of seniors did not feel that today's HCPs are adequately trained to address the healthcare needs of older people. Content analysis indicated strongly positive postevent perceptions of the gala but also considerable divergences between students' and seniors' responses to “To me, growing older means. …” Seniors also offered advice to young HCPs encouraging listening, patience, and not using “age” as a medical diagnosis.

The second Intergenerational Gala explored similarities and differences between how seniors and students view aging. Although significant changes in attitudes were not observed, qualitative responses from both groups suggest that similar events hold promise as part of a concerted curricular strategy to encourage and improve intergenerational relations in the context of medical practice.