“Everyone’s got a story”: Nursing and allied health students’ attitudes (interest, desire, and intent) to work with older adults on graduation





students' perceptions, older people, ageism


Introduction: Our ageing population requires a highly skilled labour force to ensure the increasing needs of older adults within the health sector are responded to appropriately. Working with older adults can be very rewarding. However, for many university students, it is an unpopular career choice. This study aimed at assessing nursing and allied health students’ perceptions and attitudes along with their interests in working with older adults after graduation.

Methods: This study was part of a larger study conducted from July to December 2020. Five focus groups were conducted with 17 first-semester undergraduate students aged 19–43 years, two of whom were male. Semi-structured questions were conducted with thematic analysis to gain insight into interest in working with older adults on graduation.

Results: Results indicated that older adults were perceived on an age continuum that can be described as “young-old” to “old-old”, with age being “just a number” and that there are variations indicating heterogeneity among older adults. Participants discussed that older adults could be interesting to talk to and be a source of wisdom, using examples from their experiences with older relatives. Challenges of ageing were identified, including physical and cognitive decline, loneliness and financial constraints. A perception of stigma working in aged care along with little financial incentives was identified.

Conclusion: This study provides evidence that students require the opportunity to experience working with older adults in placements and given mentorship opportunities to work specifically with older adults. Further research is needed around scholarship of teaching and learning to address attitude- and stereotype-based positive change.


Alamri, B. H., & Xiao, L. D. (2017). Health professionals’ knowledge and attitudes toward older people in primary care in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Medical Journal, 38(3), 229–236. https://doi.org/10.15537/smj.2017.3.19293

Albarracin, D., & Wyer, R. S. (2000). The cognitive impact of past behaviour: Influences on beliefs, attitudes, and future behavioral decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(1), 5–22. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.79.1.5

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2021). Residential aged care. https://www.aihw.gov.au/about-our-data/our-data-collections/residential-aged-care

Braun V., & Clark V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Journal of Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Chaiklin, H. (2011). Attitudes behaviour and social practice. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 38(1), 31–54. https://doi.org/10.15453/0191-5096.3583

Coffey, A., Buckley, C., Gaidys, U., Sasoni, J., Arola, M., Corvo, E., Auer, S., Petersen-Ewer, C., & Tyrell, M. (2015). Beliefs of students about growing older and perceptions of working in gerontology. Arts & Science, 27(1), 33–37. https://doi.org/10.7748/nop.27.1.33.e648

Dahlke, S., Davidson, S., Kalogirou, M. R., Swoboda, N. L., Hunter, K. F., Fox, M. T., Pollard, C., & Baumbusch, J. S. (2020). Nursing faculty and students’ perspectives of how students learn to work with older people. Nurse Education Today, 93, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2020.104537.

Dinkins, C. S. (2019). Socrates cafe for older adults: Intergenerational connectedness through facilitated conversation. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 57(1), 11–15. https://doi.org/10.3928/02793695-20181212-04

Eshbaugh, E. M., Gross, P. E., & Satrom, T. (2010). Predictors of self-reported likelihood of working with older adults. Educational Gerontology, 36(4), 312–329. https://doi.org/10.1080/03601270903058481

Field, A. (2020). Evaluation matters: He take to te aromatawai. New Zealand Council for Educational Research, 6. https://www.nzcer.org.nz/nzcerpress/evaluation-matters/evaluation-matters-he-take-t-te-aromatawai-6-2020

Fisher, K., Watson, J., Willis, J. L., Hawley, D., Severance, J., Butler Carroll, T., & Jackson, L. (2022). Collective perceptions of aging and older persons held by students from eight healthcare professions. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 41(3), 855–866. https://doi.org/10.1177/07334648211061734

Fulmer, T., Reuben, D. B., Auerbach, J., Fick, D. M., Galambos, C., & Johnson, K. S. (2021). Actualising better health and health care for older adults. Health Affairs, 40(2), 219–225. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.01470

Fung, H. (2013). Aging in culture. The Gerontologist, 53(3), 369–377. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnt024

Hague, S. M. (2017). Graduate students and geropsychology: Growing need and lacking interest. Antioch University Full-Text Dissertations & Theses. https://aura.antioch.edu/etds/348

Hodgkin, S., Warburton, J., Savy, P., & Moore, M. (2016). Workforce crisis in residential aged care: Insights from rural older workers. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 76(1), 93–105. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8500.12204

Kotter-Gruhn, D., & Hess, T. M. (2012). The impact of age stereotypes on self-perceptions of aging across the adult lifespan. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 67(5), 563–570. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbr153

Leedahl, S., Brasher, M. S., & Wood, B. (2018). Implementing an interdisciplinary intergenerational program using the CyberSeniors® reverse mentoring model within higher education. Gerontology & Geriatrics, 40(1), 71–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701960.2018.1428574

Lev, S., Wurm, S., & Ayalon, L. (2018). Origins of ageism at the individual level. In L. Ayalon & C. Tesch-Romer (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives on ageism (pp. 51–72). Springer. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-73820-8_4

Lopez-Hernandez, L., Martinez-Arnau, F. M., Castellano-Rioja, E., Botella-Navas, M., & Perez-Ros, P. (2021). Factors affecting attitudes towards older people in undergraduate nursing students. Healthcare (Basel), 9(9), Article 1231. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9091231

Marshall, L. (2015). Thinking differently about aging: Changing attitudes through the humanities. The Gerontologist, 55(4), 512–515. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnu069

Milner, C., Van Norman, K., & Milner, J. (2012). The media’s portrayal of aging. In J. R. Beard, S. Biggs, D. E. Bloom, L. P. Fried, P. Hogan, A. Kalache, & S. J. Olshansky (Eds.), Global population ageing: Peril or promise (pp. 25–28). World Economic Forum.

Newsham, T. M. K., Schuster, A. M., Guest, A. M., Nikzad-Terhune, K., & Rowles G. D. (2021). College students’ perceptions of “old people” compared to “grandparents”. Educational Gerontology, 47(2), 63–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/03601277.2020.1856918

Roberts, R., & Mosher-Ashley, P. M. (2000). Factors influencing college students to choose careers working with elderly persons. Educational Gerontology, 2(8), 725–736. https://doi.org/10.1080/036012700300001386

Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. (2021). Final report https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/publications/final-report

Samra, R., Cox, T., Gordon, A. L., Conroy, S. P., Lucassen, M. F. G., & Griffiths, A. (2017). Factors related to medical students’ and doctors’ attitudes towards older patients: A systematic review. Age and Ageing, 46(6), 911–919. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afx058

Verhage, M., Schuurman, B., & Lindenberg, J. (2021). How young adults view older people: Exploring the pathways of constructing a group image after participation in an intergenerational programme. Journal of Aging Studies, 56, Article 100912. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2021.100912

Welford, C. (2014). Attitudes and knowledge in older people’s care. Nursing Times, 110(34–35), 22–24.




How to Cite

Holt, A., Preston, R., & Guggisberg, M. (2023). “Everyone’s got a story”: Nursing and allied health students’ attitudes (interest, desire, and intent) to work with older adults on graduation. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 24(3), 31–46. https://doi.org/10.11157/fohpe.v24i3.674