DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITY WELL-BEING AMONG OLDER ADULTS IN A LEARNING INSTITUTE: A CASE STUDY

Open Access
Author:
Aguilera Hermida, Ana Patricia
Graduate Program:
Lifelong Learning and Adult Education
Degree:
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 20, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Dr. Elizabeth Tisdell, Dissertation Advisor
  • Dr. Elizabeth Tisdell, Committee Chair
  • Dr. Ann Swartz, Committee Member
  • Dr. Clemmie E. Gilpin, Committee Member
  • Dr. Sarah Bronson, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • Lifelong learning
  • Neuroplasticity
  • U3A
  • Lifelong learning institutes
  • Community Well-being
  • Older adults
  • Social Capital
  • Subjective well-being and seniors
  • Brain Reserve
  • Cognitive training
  • Learning institutes for older adults
  • Senior learners
  • Elderly
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to explore participants’ experiences and perceptions of the development of community well-being as a result of their participation in a learning institute for older adults, and in a particular holistic course aimed at the overall promotion of cognitive health. This was a qualitative case study grounded both in the community well-being, and in the cognitive reserve literature regarding older adults. The case under study was a learning institute that functioned alongside a retirement community. There were a total of 11 participants in the study: including five that provided understanding of the overall context, and six who participated in a two-part eight week course promoting cognitive health for seniors. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, in-class observation, and analysis of relevant documents. There are four sets of findings in this study organized around: (1) the learning institute context and goals; (2) older learners’ lives and sense of well-being; (3) their participation in a course in cognitive health promotion; and (4) the meaning of learning for older adults. Findings show that senior learners value the learning experience and the structure of the institute. Course participants presented high levels of community well-being (subjective well-being and social capital), because of their faith, activities, relationships, and the acceptance of their life’s limitations. The educational process provides a broader view of life and helps seniors to reflect on their values. Learning is considered to be a motivator for action, and the learning institute has become a bridge to the broader community. The course for promoting cognitive health is a source of hope, awareness, and meaning making. This study has implications for the theory and practice of adult education with older learners in a variety of contexts. Moreover, it contributes to the promotion of cognitive health interventions for seniors as primary prevention strategies. The discussion of the findings poses a model for learning institutes that may promote community well-being for senior learners.