• Vol. 38 No. 10, 857–861
  • 15 October 2009

Attitudes Towards the Elderly among Singapore Medical Students

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: It is important that medical students possess the correct attitude towards the elderly and not have an ageist attitude. This is because they will be caring for an increasing proportion of elderly patients. We thus sought to assess the attitudes of our medical students towards the elderly. Materials and Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study assessing the attitudes towards the elderly of 225 first-year and 135 third-year students using a self-administered questionnaire that incorporated the Kogan’s Attitudes Toward Old People Scale (KAOP). Elderly people were defined as those aged 65 years and above for this study. Results: The majority of first- (98.2%) and third-year (99.2%) medical students had positive attitudes towards elderly people (KAOP score above 102). KAOP scores were not significantly different regardless of seniority (medical student year), gender, race, household income, or having a doctor-parent. Although the mean KAOP score of third-year students was higher than that of first-year students, this was not significantly different (P = 0.062). Conclusions:Medical students in Singapore have a positive attitude towards the elderly. It is important that their medical curriculum continues to have an increasing geriatric component in view of the increasing numbers of older persons that they will be caring for due to the ageing population


Singapore’s population is ageing rapidly. As of the year 2000, 7.2% of Singapore’s population was aged 65 and above, while 10.6% was aged 60 years and above.1 In the next 2 decades, the number of the elderly is expected to increase by more than 3 times the present level to over 1 million persons.2 With a greater proportion of the elderly, our doctors will very likely be treating more elderly patients over the years. The burden of chronic, non-communicable diseases is also likely to rise.3 As more of our older persons consume more healthcare services, healthcare providers will have to be more aware of the challenges they will face to appropriately care for this segment of the population. For example, care needs to go beyond treatment of the elderly who have lost their health to include disease prevention, and maintaining function and independence in older people.4 Similarly, the containment and optimal management of chronic conditions will require a strong emphasis on patient education.3

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