A Matter of Balance Service Learning Activities Positively Impact both Physical Therapy Students and Seniors Confidence
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Purpose/Hypothesis: The purposes of this study were to investigate the impact of Service Learning (SL) activities consisting of A Matter of Balance (AMOB) classes on: 1) physical therapy (PT) students’ self-perceived confidence in working with older adults and 2) seniors’ attitude towards fear of falling. We hypothesized PT students will have an increase in confidence working with seniors after participating in SL activities. Secondly, we hypothesize seniors who participate in the fall prevention course will have a decreased fear of falling as well as an increase in physical activity levels. Materials/Methods: The PT department established a collaborative relationship with Senior Citizen Services (SCS), an organization which identified a community need for senior education regarding fall risk reduction. The SL activities consisted of 86 PT students from two consecutive cohorts of a first-year geriatrics course: 1) attending an 8-hour training class in AMOB: A Fall Prevention Course and 2) leading 8 classes of AMOB workshops at senior community centers in Tarrant County, TX. PT students completed a 25-question questionnaire rating self-perceived levels of competence at pre-training, post-training and post workshops. 490 older adults ranging from 62-96 years of age, whom voluntarily signed up for a fall prevention course through the Senior Citizens Service (SCS) completed a questionnaire addressing their fall concerns and fears; pre and post AMOB workshops. The questionnaires for the older adults were collected over the course of a two-year period by the SCS. Results: Both student cohorts had similar confidence levels at the beginning of SL activities. All students reported increased confidence in essential competencies for assessing and mediating the risk for falls in older adults post AMOB trainings. Conclusions: Integrating SL into a first-year geriatric course improved students’ confidence and competence when working with the older adult population. PT students will apply this confidence in the clinical setting and will be prepared to effectively evaluate and treat the growing older adult population. Providing education regarding fall reduction may improve the safety and wellness for older adults, possibly leading to injury reduction and hospitalization.