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Older people reap benefits of lifelong learning

Resource type: News

Sunday Business Post (Ireland) |

Don’t Stop me Now A Study on the Lifelong Learning Needs of Older People, carried out by Aontas, the Irish National Adult Learning Organisation, has revealed some interesting findings. The research, to be published in full later this year, involved focus group sessions and surveys conducted with well over 200 older learners around Ireland. “Aontas was supported in this research by Age and Opportunity,” said Ber’ni Brady, director of Aontas. “Through our research, we found that, contrary to a lot of myths, older people have a huge interest in learning.” The research also involved consulting approximately 100 service providers (VECs, family resource centres, partnership companies, county and city development boards) to see what was on offer for older people wanting to get back into education. The main objectives of the research were to look at why older people got involved in learning and what challenges they faced when returning to education. The main findings include: Socialising/ Wellbeing The most important reason for older people taking part in education involves the social aspect. Getting out of the house and meeting people were big motivators for people going back to education. Also many of those surveyed said that learning helped keep their mind and body active. The digital divide ICT is fast proving the most popular choice for older people learning and service providers are responding with 82 per cent providing ICT training opportunities. This demonstrates the importance of the digital divide issue. It extends beyond the personal use of email and internet many older people identified its importance in knowing more about their rights and entitlements, or questions they might have in their daily lives. Even though service providers are stepping up to the mark and making more ICT courses available, there was overwhelming evidence that older people wanted more.This includes the use of mobile phones, learning how to text and get the most out of new technology. Transport There was a contradiction here with older people identifying transport as a big barrier affecting their participation in learning, particularly in rural areas, with older people often relying on lifts or a limited rural transport system. However, only 11 percent of service providers identified this as an issue for older learners. Participation of men The study indicates that older women are most likely to take part in education; the majority of those responding to the survey were women. Assessing the findings to date, Aontas has made these key recommendations: government and service providers need to make learning in later life a priority. This will involve the resourcing of outreach activities, as well as reviewing the upper age limit of schemes such as the Back to Education Initiative, so that people over the age of 64 can take part. the role of the new Minister of State for Older People should also be cross-departmental in function to influence policy within the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children, and the Department of Social Welfare. additional resources are needed, especially for training service providers, capital funding for premises for groups to meet, and increased investment in rural transport initiatives. programmes should be long term and strategic in approach, fostering a culture where older learners are enabled to share their skills with others. older people should be regularly consulted about their own needs.

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