Education in Older and Oldest-Old Age - A Comparison Between the United States and Germany

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Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2020-09-01
Language: English
Faculty: 6 Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Erziehungswissenschaft
Advisor: Schmidt-Hertha, Bernhard (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2020-06-24
DDC Classifikation: 370 - Education
Keywords: Bildung , Bildungsarbeit , Erwachsenenbildung , Weiterbildung , Altenbildung , Alter , Älterer Mensch , USA , Deutschland , Vergleich , Motivation
Other Keywords: Bildung im Alter
Drittes Alter
Viertes Alter
Old age
Oldest-old age
Third age
Fourth age
Education in old age
United States
continuing education
Adult education
Older adult education
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The main objective of this thesis is to investigate education in older and oldest-old age and to explore the field further with an international comparative empirical study of educational behaviors, preferences, and motivations of learners aged 65 and older in the United States (U.S.) and Germany. The first part of the thesis discusses the importance of the topic of older adult education. Developed countries, like the U.S. and Germany, experience significant aging of their populations in which the number of older adults increases while the number of children decreases. This demographic development is driven by declining fertility rates, migration as well as by increasing life expectancy and decreasing mortality. The further life expectancy at the age of 65 has increased in both the U.S. and Germany, and individuals can expect to live two decades or longer after retirement. Therefore, old age has become a new and extended life phase. In addition to these developments, the related societal changes create challenges and raise questions, such as how retirement and health care systems can be financed in the future or how old age can be spent in a meaningful way. Education in old age can play an essential role in responding to these questions and has the potential to transform challenges into opportunities. However, older adult learners are so far underrepresented in education, and oldest-old or frail individuals are often entirely overseen by educational providers. Keeping the aforementioned multifaceted benefits of ongoing learning and education in old age in mind, expanding educational efforts towards all subgroups of the older population is critical. In general, no consensus exists whether old age, and specifically oldest-old age, requires a separate form and method of education. Also, comprehensive national and international comparative research on the participation patterns of mature adults in education is lacking. Therefore, this thesis responds to the need for further research on education in older and oldest-old age. The second part covers the empirical Silverlearning Study, which investigates educational behaviors, preferences, and motivations of learners aged 65 and older in comparison between the U.S. and Germany, and also explores if these aspects are subject to change during the life phase of old age. This quantitative study was carried out in the U.S. and Germany between February to August 2015 and involved a sample of 1,485 adults aged 65 and older who participated in organized education during the last 12 months. The study showed, for example, that older and oldest-old adult learners are dedicated and frequent learners, but that oldest-old age is the turning point for educational participation. However, the study also highlighted that oldest-old age is not necessarily synonymous with the fourth age and that declining health is not necessarily a participation barrier in old age. In general, it was visible that educational participation and motivation in old age is complex and influenced by a variety of factors.

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