Life is Experienced Until We Die: Effects of Service-Learning on Gerontology Competencies and Attitudes Toward Aging


  • Sally Hill Jones Texas State University School of Social Work



Service-Learning, Gerontology, Competencies


This mixed methods study examined the effects of service learning in an undergraduate gerontology course on student learning outcomes. Eleven of thirteen students chose to provide companionship and practical help to community-dwelling older adults and link course assignments to this experience. Participating students were mostly female and social work majors or minors, of various races and ethnicities, and of traditional and nontraditional ages. Self-ratings using the Geriatric Social Work Competency Scale showed significant skill improvements for students from pretest to posttest. Analysis of student journals indicated improvement in interaction skills, knowledge of aging processes, dismantling of stereotypes, awareness of issues affecting healthy aging, valuing older adults, and cultural competence. Career plans were positively affected for most students. Letters offering advice to their 70-year old selves appeared to impact students’ plans for self-care. Service-learning is recommended to increase students’ gerontology competencies and attitudes toward aging in others and themselves.

Author Biography

Sally Hill Jones, Texas State University School of Social Work

Associate Professor at the School of Social Work at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas