Older Adults' Development, Learning and Education




Baumgartner, Lisa M.

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The world’s population is aging. Globally, there are “727 million persons aged 65 years or over in 2020” (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2020, p. 1). In 2020, 9.3% of the population was over age 65 (p. 1). By 2050, the “number of older persons worldwide is projected to be more than double, reaching over 1.5 billion” (p. 1). Because the older adult population is increasing, and learning is a lifelong endeavor, it is important to understand older learners and their learning. In this chapter, I discuss the definitions of “older adult.” I touch on physical changes, namely differences in sight and hearing because these changes can profoundly affect learning. Additionally, I explore brain changes and the effects of exercise and cognitive training on the brain. Next, I investigate older adults’ informal learning in daily activities and nonformal settings. Last, I conclude with observations about the literature on older adults in these areas. The minimum age used to define an older adult varies. The age of 65 is typically chosen as a minimum age for later adulthood because “In 1889, the German Chancellor Otto von Bismark decided to set this as the age when people could receive social insurance payments” (Whitbourne and Whitbourne, 2014, p. 8). Gerontologists divide older adults into three groups. Individuals ages 65–74 are “young-old,” while those 75–84 are “middle-old” with age 85 and older considered “old-old” (p. 8). Some scholars use ages 50 or 60 as minimum ages to define “older adults.” Most of the information presented in this chapter will concern adults aged 50 or older.



adult learning, adult education, older adults


Baumgartner, L.M. (2023). In: Tierney, R.J., Rizvi, F., Erkican, K. (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Education, vol. 6. Elsevier.


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