Older Adult Learners: A Comparison of Active and Non-Active Learners

  • Atlanta Sloane-Seale University of Manitoba
  • Bill Kops University of Manitoba


This paper reports on a 2004 follow-up study conducted in partnership with the University of Manitoba Continuing Education Division and local senior’s organizations. The partnership was formed in 2002–03 to promote applied research on lifelong learning and older adults, develop new and complement existing educational activities, and explore new program models and instructional methods to meet the educational needs of retirees. The partnership involved the develop- ment of a number of activities: University in May started in 2002, a mini medical series began in 2003, and a survey was completed in 2003 to identify the learning interests, motivations, and barriers among active older adults who participate in learning activities. The 2004 follow-up study compared barriers to participation, learning interests, and motivation to those of a similar population of older adults who held membership with the organizations but had not participated in educational activities for the past two years. The results indicate that the non-active respondents are older, less healthy, less active, less educated, and have lower incomes. Time and motivation to participate may be affected by their socioeconomic standing, health, and sense of well being; that is, their perception of their social reality. Further study to explore the definition of barriers to participation and life long learning for older adults is warranted. Recommendations for program models to facilitate participation in educational opportunities should also be explored.