More than nickels and dimes: the health benefits of a community-based lifelong learning programme for older adults
In Canada, as in many countries, public continuing education of the non-vocational general interest type for people in post-work languishes on the margins of political discourse. This case study of one such traditional program for seniors run by a school board in Ontario explores the experiences of older adults and the meanings they attach to their learning. The goal is to better understand the roles and effects later life learning has in promoting health and well-being at both the individual and community levels. This study analyzes qualitative data collected through interviews, classroom observations and documents, referring to the micro, meso and macro levels of theory in adult education, psychology, health and social gerontology. The three main learning outcomes identified include: 1) the effects of enduring interest, 2) classrooms as social support networks, and 3) the awareness of the right to learn. The article examines how these outcomes function as health promoting mechanisms for individuals and communities. The results indicate the vital role played by affordable and accessible public continuing education program for retirees, especially seniors at risk. They also suggest the need for further quantitative research to measure the impact of learning on health and the quality of later life.
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