Heart Health Articles

Government Has Failed To Invest In Lifelong Learning For An Ageing Society

July 08, 2017

Debates about the rising cost of social care for the elderly have been raging in Parliament and beyond but a new study says that the government has failed to invest in learning activities that can promote health and well-being among older people.

The research, carried out by a team in the Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of Leicester, reports that the educational needs of people aged 50 and over in the UK are not being met in recent years over 1.4 million enrolments in adult community education have been lost and the participation rates of older adults in learning have declined considerably since 2000.

'The present government does not seem to appreciate the considerable benefits that lifelong learning can bring for older people, for their families and community and indeed for the state itself,' said Professor John Benyon, Director of Research at the Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of Leicester.

John Benyon criticises the failure of successive governments to invest in lifelong learning in an article in the first edition (April 2010) of Political Insight, a new thrice-yearly magazine that presents research into politics and public policy in an engaging way to a broader audience than traditional academic journals.

Other topics featured in issue one of Political Insight include a detailed prediction of the forthcoming general election from Professor Paul Whiteley of the British Election Study. Professor Whiteley uses an accurate statistical analysis it predicted the 2005 election winner to within two seats and predicts a hung parliament this time around, with the Conservatives winning just nine seats more than Labour.

On the issue of lifelong learning, Professor Benyon says: 'Investment in learning opportunities for older people would pay real dividends. The evidence shows that the character and quality of older peoples' lifestyles can be significantly enhanced by education and learning.

'Adult education can assist older people to, for example, understand financial and legal matters, make more-informed consumer choices and understand and properly use social, political and technological changes.'

The UK population is getting older in 1950 one in ten of the population was 65 or over, now that figure is one in six and by 2035 it will be one in four and the article reports that lifelong learning can significantly improve the mental and physical health and well-being of older people. 80% of learners aged 50 to 71 reported that classes improved their self-confidence, enjoyment of life and ability to cope with stress.

'The government is encouraging people to contribute to the economy up to and beyond the current state pension age, 65 for men and 60 for women. In future it is likely that people will work until they are 70 or even beyond that,' continued Professor Benyon.

'The government has so far failed to invest in lifelong learning opportunities for older people. Adult education has the potential to benefit us all, including the government and the public purse, but at present these opportunities are not being grasped. It remains to be seen whether the other political parties will show greater vision and commitment in the coming election campaign.'

Source: Leicester University