Don't [Have to] Talk to Strangers: Findings from an Intergenerational Oral History Project


  • Gabriele Moriello
  • Mary Ligon
  • Katie Ehlman


Oral history can be used in gerontology classrooms to promote positive shifts in undergraduate students’ attitudes toward older adults and aging. The purpose of this study was to assess whether students who complete an oral history interview with older adults with whom they are unfamiliar experience greater positive shifts in attitudes toward older adults and the aging process as compared to those who interview older adults they know. Eight-five participants were randomly assigned to a ‘Family’ group or a ‘Stranger’ group. Attitudes toward older adults and the aging process were measured at four points over the course of the semester. Results revealed that both groups experienced a positive shift in attitudes, but that shift was not greater in one group over the other. The project was equally effective in improving attitudes when conducted with strangers or with people with whom students were familiar.