The purpose of this study is to examine nursing students’ (n = 18) perceptions of interrelating with older adults to understand how such interactions might improve students’ levels of cultural competence and enhance their future nursing practice. Additionally, the study sought to contribute to a higher level of technological competency in older adults.


A basic qualitative study design (Merriam and Tisdell, 2016) was used to direct the data collection and analysis to achieve the aims of this study.


Four themes emerged from the data collected based on cultural knowledge, cultural skills, cultural desire and engaging in cross-cultural interactions. Students reflected on how their experiences would help them to interact with older adults in their future nursing practices.

Research limitations/implications

The limitation of the research is that the exploratory study cannot be generalized for a wider demographic. Also, the students’ prior experiences working with older adults were not considered and their reflections may not have accurately portrayed their true biases.

Practical implications

Reflection is a valuable practice to help students think through their experiences and is considered a key component of service-learning. In this study, students reflected on how their experiences would help them to interact with older adults in their future nursing practices.

Social implications

Nursing students who are later used take with them empathy, more sensitivity and positive attitudes toward older people to benefit the nurse-patient relationship with this population.


This is one of a handful of studies located that pairs nursing students with older people in teaching technology skills through iPad technology.


This is an Author-Accepted Manuscript from the journal Working with Older People, published by Emerald Publishing. This version of the article is under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 (CC BY-NC) license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. DOI for published article: https://doi.org/10.1108/WWOP-10-2020-0053


Emerald Publishing

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Gipson, C.S., Delello, J.A. and McWhorter, R.R. (2020), "Engaging nursing students and older adults through service-learning", Working with Older People, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 84-93. https://doi.org/10.1108/WWOP-10-2020-0053