1 Escola Superior de Saude de Viseu (PORTUGAL)
2 Hospital da Guarda (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 7288-7296
ISBN: 978-84-606-5763-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2015
Location: Madrid, Spain
The aging of the population is a pressing issue today and for this reason it is the subject of constant study and attention in our society. However, society's attitudes and social representations regarding aging and the elderly are often negative which, in part, may lead to discriminatory interventions that compromise the quality of assistance and even health care. Thus, the aims of this study were primarily to: (i) characterize the level of knowledge that nursing professionals consider they have with regards to the elderly and old age; and (ii) to find out the social representations and attitudes of nurses regarding elderly patients.

Using a cross-sectional, quantitative study a random sample of 151 Portuguese nurses was questioned. The sample consisted mostly of females (76.16%), who are married (64.20%), aged between 34 and 45 years (45.70%; M=42.11; SD=11.728), and with over 10 years of professional experience (68.20%). The following measurement instruments were used: a sociodemographic worksheet, a Scale of Social Representations (Catita & Goulão, 2008) and the Semantic Differential Scale of Attitudes Toward the Elderly (Neri, Cachioni & Resende (2002), both of which were assessed and validated for the Portuguese population, expressing good reliability indicators.

Analysis of the results on the social representations of nurses regarding the elderly revealed that they tend to be positive. On the other hand, the results showed the existence of significant effects of the variables age, post-graduate instruction, type of service in which duties are performed, length of professional experience, length of time in that service and relationship of social representations. Specifically, it was found that younger nurses, with less professional experience and with less time in that service, with training postgraduate instruction and who live with or interact with elderly 1st and 2nd degree relatives simultaneously have better social representations. With regard to attitudes towards old age, analysis of the results showed that most nurses (71.5%) have predominantly neutral attitudes towards the elderly and the percentage difference between the positive and negative attitudes is minimal, although positive attitudes present a slightly higher value (15.9% vs. 12.6%). We found a moderate and highly significant association in the correlation between the partial scale scores of social representations and total differential semantic scale of attitudes, which shows that the more positive the representations regarding the elderly, the better the attitudes.

We believe on the one hand, that everyone who deals with elderly people on a daily basis needs an appropriate training profile and that there must be a set of educational strategies which will allow them with the potential to provide a differentiated and qualified intervention essential to identifying needs and shortcomings the elderly face. On the other hand, the evidence found point towards the need to promote intergenerational contact (which may include intelligently managing human resources in health institutions placing more young professionals in caring for the elderly), and encouraging turnover between services at least every five years.
social representations, attitudes, nurses, seniors