Improving Learning in Later Life: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Improving Learning in Later Life

1st Edition

By Alexandra Withnall


162 pages

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pub: 2009-07-14
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With life expectancy increasing, there is growing emphasis on encouraging older people to continue learning. This comes as part of a strategy to allow them to remain healthy, independent and vitally engaged in society for as long as possible. All the same, policymakers have barely begun to address the issues involved and the perspectives of these learners. This book presents insightful research that will help shift the focus of debate onto the learning experiences of older people themselves. It offers a critical overview of the development of theoretical and philosophical approaches to later life learning that have developed over the last three decades, drawing on published work from the USA, the UK, Australia and other countries. It documents the individual experiences of older people through a variety of methods, including:

  • Focus group discussions
  • Learning diaries kept by older people
  • Questionnaires considering, among other issues, older people’s definition on what learning is
  • Interviews and commentary

This material gives a sense of the breadth and diversity of older people’s experiences, as well as the enormous range of learning activities, both informal and formal, in which they are engaged in retirement. In a climate of debate and change concerning the provision and funding of non-vocational learning opportunities for adults of any age, this study’s findings will be of particular importance. It will appeal to researchers and students of education as well as those directly involved in the implementation of courses and classes involving older learners.

Table of Contents

PART 1: What is the issue? 1. Lifelong learning: a new climate for older learners? 2. Why learning in later life? PART 2: What does the research tell us? 3. What has influenced later life learners? 4. How does later life learning happen? 5. No limits to learning? 6. New contexts, new learners? PART 3: What are the overall implications? 7. A better future for older learners?

About the Author

Alexandra Withnall is Associate Professor at the University of Warwick. She has previously worked at the University of Lancaster, Keele University and the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. She is a past chair of the UK-based Association for Education and Ageing.

About the Series

Improving Learning

The Improving Learning series showcases findings from projects within ESRC’s Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) – the UK’s largest ever coordinated educational research initiative. Each book is explicitly designed to support ‘evidence-informed’ decisions in educational practice and policy-making. In particular, they combine rigorous social and educational science with high awareness of the significance of the issues being researched.



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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Adult & Continuing Education