Education Education Education – this was the government’s mantra but does it apply to those over 50? How accessible is education to the over 50+ ? What sort of course and opportunities are the major public providers such as colleges and universities offering? Why are not older people participating?
According to NIACE (Stephen McNair, Older People’s learning in 2012 a survey) only one older person in five is a learner. Why? Is it cost? Are there transport problems to get to locations or are the courses just not of interest?
Of course the emphasis is on training for employment but at a time when people are expected to work until at least 66years – 67 in 2026 are older people being given the same opportunities as younger people? Do older people need specific areas of training for employment and are these being catered for?
There is no specific funding line for older learners nor are there any underpinning policy papers but the government has supported projects bringing computers into care settings and there has been funding to provide training in the use of computers but of course this is essential from the governments point of view as services such as the benefits system, tax system and many Local Authority services can only be accessed on line. But is this enough? The emphasis is now very much on local councils making local decisions for local provision – are you engaged in this process or will older people be invisible again?
There are some more informal learning opportunities – the University of the Third Age (U3A) is thriving in many boroughs, there is the Open University but at a cost, there are groups like Ransackers but how widely known are these groups?
Isn’t it about time we said what we wanted – if you could say what you wanted what courses would you choose? Just name 3 and let’s see if we can get Education Education Education meaningful for older people.