(2013) The benefits of learning in later life: an editorial essay
The paper argues that, in the modern world, learning can no longer be regarded as an asset to be accessed only in youth but rather as a lifelong process. The paper explores four rationales for lifelong learning – a) stimulation and support of the new production mode of service societies; b) longevity not as a burden but rather as a social dividend; c) contribution to social productivity and social status in old age, e.g. in voluntary work or in care-taking contexts; d) cultural and political benefits in social contexts such as family, leisure, work etc. Evidence for a wide range of positive benefits of lifelong learning and of learning in later life is examined under five headings a) economic benefits, b) mental stimulation, c) influences on health and mortality d) improvement of interpersonal skills and social inclusion, e) achievement of new insights and of senses of meaning and self-fulfillment. The paper urges the need for a critical evaluation of the benefits of education and asks what type of education is needed for a new learning culture in old age. It advocates a future educational policy which creates structures ensuring equal opportunities and unhindered access to high-quality and diverse learning opportunities for older people.
International Journal of Education and Ageing, Vol. 3, No. 2, 115-126, October 2013, ISSN: 2044-5458