• Vol. 41 No. 9, 383–389
  • 15 September 2012

The Knowledge-Attitude Dissociation in Geriatric Education: Can It be Overcome?

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: A knowledge-attitude dissociation often exists in geriatrics where knowledge but not attitudes towards elderly patients improve with education. This study aims to determine whether a holistic education programme incorporating multiple educational strategies such as early exposure, ageing simulation and small group teaching results in improving geriatrics knowledge and attitudes among medical students.

Materials and Methods: We administered the 18-item University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Geriatric Knowledge Test (GKT) and the Singapore-modified 16-item UCLA Geriatric Attitudes Test (GAT) to 2nd year students of the old curriculum in 2009 (baseline reference cohort, n = 254), and before and after the new module to students of the new curriculum in 2010 (intervention cohort, n = 261), both at the same time of the year.

Results: At baseline, between the baseline reference and intervention cohort, there was no difference in knowledge (UCLA-GKT Score: 31.6 vs 33.5, P = 0.207) but attitudes of the intervention group were worse than the baseline reference group (UCLA-GAT Score: 3.53 vs 3.43, P = 0.003). The new module improved both the geriatric knowledge (UCLA-GKT Score: 34.0 vs 46.0, P <0.001) and attitudes (UCLA-GAT Score: 3.43 vs 3.50, P <0.001) of the intervention cohort.

Conclusion: A geriatric education module incorporating sound educational strategies improved both geriatric knowledge and attitudes among medical students.


Consistent with the worldwide trend of increasing life expectancy, the elderly population is projected to increase exponentially in both developed and developing countries. As outlined by the Report of the Second World Assembly on Ageing, the education and training of healthcare professionals who are competent and comfortable to care for older adults have been identified as one of the priority directions for governments. This is especially pertinent to Asian populations which currently have some of the fastest growing aged populations in the world. For instance, in Singapore, the proportion of persons over 65 years will increase from 8.4% in 2005 to 18.7% in 2030. This demographic transition will further accentuate the epidemiological transition towards chronic diseases and neurodegenerative conditions like dementia.

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