by Jenna Rebhun, UIUC, Intro to Aging Project
For my James Scholar project, I chose to conduct a survey for undergraduate students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I originally chose to create this survey in order to compare students’ understanding of the process of aging, and many other lifestyle components that are affected by the aging process. I think it is important for all individuals to have a strong understanding of what aging is, and know that it is not solely applicable to those whom are older, but to everyone, as we are all constantly changing and going through different life stages. I am hoping that through this survey, I learn more about what kinds of students know more about aging (whether it be older versus younger students, or students in certain majors) and why this may be. I am also eager to learn whether or not students focus on both positive and negative aspects of the aging process, or just solely negative. Through my aging classes at U of I, I have learned more about the positive components of aging, but I feel that those whom are not as exposed to these classes may not focus on these aspects when answering the survey questions.
In this survey, there were several different open-ended questions and true/false questions related to the topic of aging. Variables in the survey were age and major, with an age range of 18-22 and a large variety of different majors on the Urbana-Champaign campus. The purpose of the survey was to see whether or not a person’s age and/or major had any correlation to his or her responses, and whether those whom are either older or in a major related somehow to health sciences had stronger responses overall. A total of 48 undergraduates responded in the survey.
My Hypothesis for this project was undergraduates whom are older and in majors related to health sciences will have a deeper understanding of aging and get more true/false questions correct, while those whom are younger and are not in health science majors will not have as strong of an understanding of aging and get more true/false questions incorrect. I considered that Psychology, Kinesiology, Community Health, RST, MCB, HDFS, Integrative Biology, Human Nutrition and Speech and Hearing Sciences were all majors that fell under “Health Sciences”. All other respondents, whom had majors such as business, accounting, art education, global studies, Spanish, etc. did not fall under the realm of being “Health Sciences”.
After analyzing each question, I broke down the results based off of age, and then based off of major. When comparing respondents’ ages 18-19 to those ages 20-22, there seemed to be a trend. Those ages 18-19 seemed to define aging as a lifelong process, whereas those ages 20-22 defined aging as deterioration in older age. This particular conclusion seemed to go against my hypothesis. However, when asking respondents about the signs of aging, those ages 18-19 focused primarily on physical aspects of aging, whereas those ages 20-22 focused on physical, mental, and social aspects of aging. Additionally, when asked when and why a person should
retire, those ages 18-19 focused more on why the person should retire due to financial security, health ailments, etc… whereas the 20-22 year old respondents focused on the reasons it may be unsafe for the person and for those around him or her to continue working. Overall, I believe respondents’ ages 20-22 gave a more complex answer to the majority of the questions compared to those ages 18-19. Furthermore, those ages 20-22 got significantly more true/false answers correct compared to respondents ages 18-19.
When comparing answers of those in the category of “health science majors” versus non-health science like majors, responses varied but overall, free response answers given by “health science” type majors were very similar to what my hypothesis was. These answers focused more so on scientific facts, biological perspectives and more, whereas those not in health science majors tended to focus more so on the general “stereotypical” definition of aging. Additionally, those from Health Science backgrounds focused more on positive and negative aspects of aging, whereas those in other majors that are not really health science related tended to focus solely on the negative aspects of aging. In terms of true and false responses, I did not find a correlation between a person’s major and the amount of questions he or she got right, but I did find a correlation between someone’s age and the amount of correct answers (as mentioned above, those whom are older got more questions correct for the true/false section of the survey).
My results are very consistent with my hypothesis in that both older individuals, and individuals in health science related majors will have a stronger, deeper understanding of the aging process and will get more true/false answers correct. From these results, I believe that there should be a change in the way that all individuals learn about ageing. Whether it is a requirement in undergraduate coursework to learn about the ageing process, or an event that is put on by the school, I believe all individuals, regardless of their major or age, should learn more about the aging process and all that it involves.