As part of our new project, Learn and Live Long, funded by an Awards for All lottery grant, I have begun to explore the learning opportunities available toolder people with the aim of creating a user-friendly database that will help people identify courses that are suited to their own interests, ambitions, levels of commitment and varying stages of life.
What has been apparent from the start, is that the world of lifelong learning has changed dramatically since I visited Northern College in 2013 for Ransackers Association to make a short film about a group of older learners celebrating their experience of residential courses.
There are now just two residential colleges left and the provision of classroom-based adult education by local councils and FE Colleges has been swallowed up by the Adult Community Learning initiative which has seen the offering to students shrunk to vocational and skills-based criteria with identical menus across the country of ESOL and Maths and work-based technical skills. Nonetheless, I shall do my utmost to uncover community-based, face-to-face classes that offer older people the chance to share their learning experience with their peers.
To a large extent, driven by increased accessibility and the relentless advance of technology, and more recently, of course, by the constraints of Covid, wider learning resources have retreated online. This has facilitated a profusion of opportunities and a multiplicity of courses for anyone with an internet connection. Whether you want to study American Studies at Yale or Art History at the Open University the world is literally at your keyboard.
Online courses range from tutor-led interactive lessons to self-guided (and self-paced) learning. From one-off lectures and short courses to A levels, degrees and PHDs. Subjects from Architecture to Zoology. Course fees vary widely from free to exorbitant. Qualifications and accreditations also fall into a wide range of outcomes. However, navigating this vast mass of resources can be daunting, so my hope is that my research will result in a workable guide that will enhance access to, and promote the benefits of, lifelong learning.
Please get in touch if you have had an educational adventure in later life that you would like to share, or if you can recommend a course provider. We welcome your insights.
As part of the ‘Ageing Well Public Talk series’ we are exploring how important it is, over our lifespan, to maintain a well-balanced nutrition and hydration as well as regular physical and social activity in the older age, also known as the ‘Five Pillars of Ageing Well’. As we know we start ageing the moment we are born. It demonstrates more significantly when we reach certain age, the usual benchmark being 65+, but our ageing starts much sooner and the way ageing demonstrates when we are over 65 depends on decisions we have been making over our life span.
The series and related materials such as ‘The Five Pillars of Ageing Well’ (Nutrition, Hydration, Physical, Social and Cognitive Stimulation) became the cornerstones of further engagement with the public, specifically around COVID-19 and the relating self-isolation, which are now available on the Open University website and the Internet.
Creating bridges between communities (in this case: research community researching sometimes in an ‘Ivory tower’ and community of ageing population (for whom it is sometimes very difficult to reach to the findings that ageing related research produced) was the starting point. The overall aim of these series of interventions is to facilitate a step change in user behaviour and support service provision. Self-management and becoming partner in our own health care is an important aspect of these talks. This may have a wider impact in healthcare economies, as ageing and related co-morbidities have a substantial health and economic burden footprint.
I have been presenting the ‘Ageing Well’ Lecture Series in collaboration with Third Age University and Free Time University overseas for the past 17 years and more recently in collaboration with primary care practices, stakeholders and charities in the UK. Currently I am collaborating with Public Health England, Age Scotland, Age UK MK, Public Health Northamptonshire, Camphill MK, Carers in Northamptonshire, UKeMED & Cambridge Medical Academy, East of England Academic Health Science Network and the and Voluntary Health Scotland and other organisations and charities on delivering ‘Ageing Well Public Talks’.
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