Emotional Impact of Participation in an Intergenerational Service-Learning Course

Lori R. Kogan, Regina M. Schoenfeld-Tacher, Peter W. Hellyer, James A. Oxley, Mark Rishniw


Service-learning offers numerous benefits to students, yet there is minimal research exploring the immediate impact of service-learning on students’ emotive state. Given the prevalence of stress, depression and anxiety in college students, this area of research carries important implications. This paper investigates the emotional impact of participation in an intergenerational service-learning course on college students’ moods. In the course investigated, students were responsible for providing direct services related to pet care to low-income elderly persons, and individuals with disabilities. Students were asked to track their moods before and after each interaction with a pet owner using a mobile application. They were also required to write reflection papers about their experiences, views, and insights gained over the course of the semester. Using the mood tracking application, participants reported improved mood after visiting clients and their pets when compared to before their visit. Students’ personal reflection essays supported this trend in mood change. While it was not possible to determine whether the observed gains were due to interactions with the elderly or their pets, intergenerational service-learning courses represent a possible avenue for ameliorating mental health issues among college students.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ire.v7i2.14794


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