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Title: Active ageing and later life learning : a qualitative study of informal education and the engagement of the older learner
Author: McCormick, Freda Mary
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 4621
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2016
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This research study explores how older people are supported in their pursuit of informal learning within the context of Northern Ireland. It will particularly explore how middle-class retirees interpret and make sense of their involvement in later life learning and the extent to which this contributes to active ageing. Due to the increasing emphasis on informal learning, the responsiveness of Government policy and the role in educational provision by the voluntary and community sector is a particular focus. A qualitative approach was adopted and semi-structured interviews were carried out with a sample of 22 people that consisted mostly of middle-class retirees with the University of the Third Age. They are all over the age of 60 and no longer working and participating in informal learning groups whilst in retirement. In addition, three key stakeholders from separate organisations involved in policy development and delivery were also interviewed. The qualitative approach provided a deeper understanding of how older people are supported in their pursuit of informal learning and how they interpreted later life learning experiences. The study finds that despite a national and international policy emphasis on later life learning, there is a notable lack of support to encourage older people to become involved in informal learning. Whilst Government policy appears to offer learning opportunities to everyone, including older learners, in reality, support for learning in later life is primarily available only to those individuals with low academic attainment to provide them with a basic level qualification. However, the research findings show that middle-class retirees do not wish to pursue qualifications, rather they largely engage in later life learning for a variety of reasons analogous with the working environment. There is evidence of a need for social interaction and belonging; to exploit previously denied opportunities; and to create a sense of structure. Conclusions suggest that middle-class retirees involved in later life learning gain more than the new knowledge and skills acquired. Learning presents an invaluable contribution to their overall outlook on life and well-being in retirement. Therefore, not only do middle-class retirees need support to actively age, they also need support to actively learn.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available