Higher education; in later life: Cui bono?

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Literature on lifelong learning is predominantly concerned with the utility of learning in relation to work and training. This narrow conceptualisation of lifelong learning-work nexus marginalizes and almost invalidates the idea that learning can be done for pleasure or sapiential reasons. When focusing on lifelong learners other than those involved for some vocational - meritocratic intent, the dominant approach is concerned with learning for remediation of some kind of deficit or for assisting with social skills that help in the adaptation to changing life and health circumstances. This situation raises the question; what about older people who are relatively ‘healthy, wealthy, and wise’ who engage in learning for pleasure or for non-utilitarian aims? This trend may be revelatory of the shift in ‘social facts’ about human aging that may now be understood less as chronologically and milestone driven, and be more a reflection of comprehending the human lifespan in terms of a quality of life paradigm. Undertaking education for its own sake by older adults reflects research about the need for ‘self-actualisation’ in later life and the concomitant desire for intergenerational interaction and transfer of knowledge and experience. This paper discusses and analyses the issues surrounding the changing nature and meaning of later life learning with a focus on Higher Education.

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Book Chapter

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