Older Learners: Learning in Workshops and Other Group Settings
Many education bodies working in the aging area point out that many of us learn in a different manner as we grow older, and that people need information offered in a different way. The literature on older adults as learners is now quite extensive.
It can be helpful to draw on this adult education literature when offering support groups for seniors with alcohol problems (and possibly even training or education sessions with service providers). Both are learning opportunities.
Differences between the older public and other groups.
Many older adults bring knowledge, experience and maturity to the classroom. Older adults are a very diverse group. Some will have gone to college or university. A large proportion (over 25%) may have less than a grade nine education. As new generations head into later life, lower levels of formal education will become less common, but it is an important matter to consider now.
For many older adults, English or French may be an acquired language, not their first language. Older adults also come from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, which will affect the types of knowledge they have, as well as their attitudes, values, and beliefs.
When planning workshops or other education sessions, be aware that older adults may not be familiar with tools or tests such as Likert scales that other younger people may take for granted. For example, this scale was first developed in 1932, but really did not come into vogue even in college psychology departments until the late 1960s, early 1970s. Most seniors have not had the opportunity to go to university or college.
Whatever tool you are using, never assume it is familiar to the other person.
The distance education program at Syracuse University offers this guide. I've divided it into parts. While a lot of it is common sense, sometimes we forget common sense.
GUIDING OLDER ADULT LEARNERS
The following material has been adapted from Hiemstra (1980) and Syracuse University updated it with more current information.
The Personal Approach of the Facilitator
Relate the Information to Needs and Experiences of Learners
Be Sensitive to Barriers, Obstacles, and Physiological Needs
Pay Careful Attention to the Pace of Learning
Make the Organize the Learning Activities and Make Them Meaningful
Involve the Learner in the Instructional Process
Evaluate and Assess What People Have Learned
This section is geared primarily to classroom types of education, but there are some useful points for educational groups. These have been placed in bold.
All adapted from: www-distance.syr.edu/oldlearn.html
References and Resources
Canadian Health Network magazine. How Literacy Affects Health. Online:
(be sure to copy the whole link)
Canadian Health Network magazine. (August , 2003). Beyond words - The health-literacy connection
Hiemstra, R. (1980c). Preparing human service practitioners to teach older adults (Information Series No. 209). Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State University, ERIC Clearinghouse for Adult, Career, and Vocational Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 193 529).
Page last updated Sunday October 31, 2004
Questions? Comments? Found a Link that is not working? Contact Webmaster: