In an earlier post, I mentioned a study called “Reinvesting in the Third Age” conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE) and funded through a new Metlife Foundation grant. The first report from this study has now been published. It is called “Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education”. This report is a literature review of what we know about older adults aged 55- 79. The researchers had problems finding published data on this age group, since colleges and universities report student enrollments in academic credit programs to the US Department of Education for age 40 and above, with no specific data on those 55 and older. In addition, there were even less data available on older adult students who have taken lifelong learning (noncredit) classes.
Some highlights of this study were:
- Many older adults want to take classes to prepare for a career change.
- Forty nine percent of adults aged 55-59 returned to school to prepare for careers that would contribute to their community.
- Other reasons for going back to school included intellectual stimulation, the "joy of learning", and sociability.
- Barriers to older adults wishing to take courses included: lack of funding, no transportation, difficulty with scheduling, ageism, and a lack of support services.
- Challenges to colleges and universities include developing appropriate programs for older adults and finding ways to fund these programs.