Older people, learning and the ageing society: an introduction to the Leicester ESRC Research Seminars
journal contributionposted on 18.01.2011, 13:16 by John Benyon
The impact of the demographic changes occurring in many countries will be far-reaching and will affect many different dimensions of economic, social, cultural and political life. These include work, pensions and retirement, mental and physical health and the costs of providing care. This article considers some of the features of the ageing society and the implications for individuals, their partners, families, wider society and the state. Much discussion of the ageing society tends to be negative but there are good arguments for a more positive view. As well as challenges, the changes provide opportunities for older people to make positive contributions – as workers, volunteers, consumers, grandparents, community activists and in other ways that draw on their experience and wisdom. One way of enabling this is through lifelong learning. The article reports on a series of seminars concerned with learning in later life held at the University of Leicester between 2007 and 2009 and introduces five papers from the seminars revised for this issue of the IJEA. A number of areas in which learning in later life may bring benefits are elaborated, including work, health and well-being, participation, volunteering and community involvement and spirituality and self-discovery. Despite these benefits, learning opportunities for older people in the UK fell sharply during the last decade. The paper concludes that government investment in learning in later life could bring real dividends.