1. Childers, Christine PhD, PT


Importance: Lack of geriatric health care professionals is a growing concern. Negative attitudes toward older adults and aging bias in students can impact quality of care, and lack of evidence-informed practice has been linked to early training. Students must be nurtured to provide quality-appropriate care for older adults.


Objective: To explore the development of an evidence-based program for older adults, specifically for balance training, to be used with students in a service-learning capacity.


Design Setting, and Participants: A qualitative case study was conducted with physical and occupational therapy students, led by faculty, engaging in service-learning experiences. Students were from 3 consecutive cohorts attending a health sciences gerontology class. One-third of the students were randomly selected to participate in the developed movement and music workshop at senior centers, assisted living facilities, and memory care units. The remaining students participated in general activities in the same or similar locations. Surveys were completed by the students as well as a reflection paper.


Exposures: Students participated in a 1-hour movement and music workshop alongside volunteer older adults. The workshop was developed using motivational theories and evidence-based recommendations for balance interventions for older adults.


Main Outcome: Student surveys demonstrated a progressive ability to recommend advanced balance interventions for older adults. Student surveys and reflective papers showed that the service-learning workshop had specifically enhanced their comprehension of motivation and meaningful activities to push older adults.


Results: The ability for students to recommend intermediate-level balance activities increased by 15% with a class only, but then advanced activity recommendations improved by 68% in those attending the workshop. Psychosocial aspects only emerged after the workshop. Service learning influenced all students, but concepts of motivation and meaningful activities were more understood by those participating in the movement workshop.


Conclusion and Relevance: Service learning is an excellent opportunity for faculty to demonstrate to students how to apply evidence-informed interventions in a manner appropriate and motivational for older adults.