Hearing therapists' and audiologists' knowledge of and attitudes towards older adults : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
The predicted increase in adults over 65 will challenge health and social service providers. Productive ageing, where healthy older adults are encouraged to remain in the workforce for longer, may be a solution. One barrier to this solution may be the negative attitudes many people have towards older adults. Fishbein & Ajzen's, (1975) theory of reasoned action postulates that attitudes are based on beliefs or knowledge and can have an affect on how people behave. Attitudes may also be influenced by such factors as age, gender, experience and, most importantly, the attitudes and beliefs of significant others (subjective norms) (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975. Hearing impairment is the third most limiting chronic condition for older adults (Chen, 1994). In the present study, 15 Hearing therapists and 30 private audiologists in New Zealand completed Palmore's (1998) Facts on Aging Quiz (FAQ), Kogan's (1961) Attitudes towards Old People Scale, a vignette measuring treatment intentions and subjective norms, and gave biographical data. It was hypothesized that audiologists would have higher knowledge levels (FAQ) and more positive attitudes (ATOP) than hearing therapists. Despite the differences in education, there were no significant differences between the two groups in FAQ scores. However, hearing therapists did have more positive attitudes towards older adults. Further analyses suggested that this was a function of gender and possibly education, with less-educated females having more positive attitudes. When considering the two professional groups together, those 40 years old and over had more positive attitudes than those less than 40 years old. It was also hypothesised that, based on the theory of reasoned action, positive attitudes will result in positive treatment (as measured by the vignette) and this relationship will be moderated by subjective norms. Subjective norms were not measurable using the vignette and were not investigated further. While all participants had positive attitudes these did not always result in the most appropriate treatment. It was concluded that a lack of specific gerontological knowledge resulted in less appropriate treatment rather than negative attitudes towards older adults.