The Positively Aging Teaching Materials Improve Middle School Students’ Images of Older People
Purpose: The Positively Aging program is an innovative set of interdisciplinary teaching materials that uses examples from geriatrics and gerontology to teach sixth through eighth grade curricular elements. The purpose of this study was to determine if use of the Positively Aging teaching materials by regular classroom teachers could change middle school students’ images of elders. Design and Methods: At the beginning of the 1998-1999 school year, students at two San Antonio, Texas, middle schools were asked to draw a typical older person. These drawings were coded as positive, neutral, or negative portrayals of elders. One school then used the Positively Aging materials as part of the curriculum; the other school served as the control. Second drawings were obtained from the students at the end of the school year and compared to those from baseline. Results: Both drawings were completed by 60% of students at the intervention school and 55% of students at the control school. Of the 782 paired drawings from the intervention school, 34% were more positive at Time 2 compared to 25% of 591 paired drawings from the control school (2 = 13.9, p < .001). In addition, only 20% of the second drawings from the intervention school were more negative than the first drawing compared to 27% from the control school (2 = 11.3, p < .001). Using a generalized logit model, we adjusted for each student's baseline drawing (positive-neutral-negative), grade level, gender, ethnic group, and socioeconomic status. After adjustment, students in the intervention school were more likely to draw positive (odds ratio [OR] 1.48, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.13, 1.94) or positive and neutral images (OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.21, 2.19) at follow-up compared to the control school. Implications: This controlled study demonstrated that use of the Positively Aging teaching materials and activities moved middle school students toward a more positive view of elders. Interdisciplinary teaching materials basedon geriatrics and gerontology can be successfully developed and tested in public school systems to affect attitudes about aging.