Supporting more older people into learning

19th October 2012

Despite evidence that learning can have a positive impact on everyone’s lives, it is a concern to NIACE that many older people are missing out on the benefits of learning.


The latest figures from NIACE’s 2012 Adult Participation in Learning Survey shows that only 16% of those aged 65-74 and 7% of those aged 75+ regard themselves as learners. Also of concern is that only 14% of those aged 65-74 and 7% of those aged 75+ have any plans to take up learning in the future and around 70% of adults aged 65 and over say that nothing would make learning more attractive.


NIACE and Age UK joined forces on 19 October to explore better ways of supporting older people into learning, at a conference hosted by BT in London. We live and learn: active ageing in the community and workplace helped to encourage older people to make the most of learning opportunities and to use them to enhance their lives and the lives of their families and communities.


Delegates had the opportunity to take part in a number of workshops, to hear from experts within the field – including MEP, Mary Honeyball, BT, Age UK, the Skills Funding Agency, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers and NIACE – and to address the following key issues:


– Older people and learning for employment

– Older people’s participation in learning

– Career review during the life course

– Approaches to learning in the pre-retirement life phase

– Intergenerational work and active citizenship learning


Christopher Brooks, Policy Adviser, Employment and Skills, at Age UK, said:


“With rising expectations from the government that people will have to work for longer, it is essential that actually being able to do so becomes a reality. Many people will find it difficult to work into their late 60s or even 70s, often due to being unfairly stereotyped as being unwilling to learn – this could prevent people returning to work or moving into a new role. Ensuring that people have appropriate opportunities to update existing knowledge and learn new skills – in both the workplace and communities – is a vital part of the extending working lives agenda.”


Jane Watts, NIACE Programme Manager, said:


“As more people have to stay in work or seek work in older age, it is vital that all have access to learning, including those who are traditionally least likely to get this opportunity. There are many wider benefits of learning for all of those outside the workplace/working life, but NIACE’s recent research on older learners shows that employment status is the most influential factor in taking up learning. This research will be presented and discussed at the event on 19 October. Older people have much to offer and can make a huge difference – let’s make sure they get the chance to do so.”


NIACE has a long history of making the case for older learners, including being commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in 2009 to collate examples of learning opportunities provided for older people in care settings. The project resulted in a film, as well as a report and a resource pack of support materials, which are all available for free online. They aim to raise awareness of the benefits of learning for older people, their carers and families, and to encourage and support public, private and voluntary sector care providers to extend and enhance learning opportunities for older people in care settings.