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A distinctive theory of teaching and learning for older learners: why and why not?

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In the wake of the world’s fast-growing ageing populations and the increasing recognition of the benefits of later life learning towards successful ageing, opportunities for elders and senior persons to engage in learning have proliferated, resulting in an array of programmes and activities being planned and organized by governments, universities, schools, non-government organizations and even hospices in many parts of the world, particularly in developed regions and economies where the opportunities and challenges brought forth by an ageing populace are more pronounced. Amidst the rising importance of elder learning and the increasing provision of learning opportunities for older adults, attention is drawn to the differences in the teaching and learning of this particular group of learners, who are experiencing significant social and psychological transitions in addition to personal changes in senior adulthood. Yet, does the mere fact that they are different from other learners, such as children and younger adults, merit a distinctive theory of teaching and learning for this unique group of older learners? The aim of this paper is to present arguments for and against such a proposition on the grounds of pedagogical principles, needs and motivations as well as difficulties and barriers, pertinent to the learning and teaching of older learners as they advance into a later stage of the lifecycle. Also, suggestions are offered regarding the approach, methods and strategies to be used for the facilitation of learning and the planning and organization of learning opportunities, be they formal, non-formal, or informal, which are appropriate for older learners.
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Keywords: educational gerontology; elder learners; gerogogy; later life learning; older adulthood; theory of learning and teaching

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong

Publication date: November 2, 2014

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