Jocelyn Badali is a Masters student at McMaster University in Health and Aging. She studies lifelong learning, technology and social isolation and inclusion initiatives. She also has worked extensively with the Alzheimer Society of Canada, administrating the national peer-reviewed research program. She wishes to one day translate her learning from her Masters work in older adult education and technology to programming and services for individuals living with dementia.
The use of web-based videoconferencing for lifelong learners
Jocelyn Badali, McMaster University, Department of Health, Aging and Society
The negative effects of social isolation and loneliness are becoming more evident amongst older adults and proves to be detrimental to both physical and psychological health. The importance of socialization to combat these negative health effects have popularized social prescription initiatives, including the expansion of continued education programs for older and retired adults. Lifelong learning is a growing industry and attending classes and expanding social networks are two motivators for lifelong learning students. Continuing education for older adults can improve psycho-social outcomes including self-esteem, self-efficacy and increasing social integration, in turn improving overall health.
There is, however, a growing inequity within social inclusion amongst older adults; those who are most excluded are from a lower income and face other systemic barriers to accessing programs that better health and well being. The same can be seen within lifelong learning, where there is a demonstrated inequitable distribution in demographics of older adults participating in organized lifelong learning programs. As indicated in previous research conducted by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the older adults partaking in lifelong learning institutes are predominantly Caucasian, well-educated, affluent, heterosexual women.
How can we ensure continuing education programs do not become an inequitable and inaccessible vehicle in an older adult’s pursuit of successful aging? To reach diverse demographics of older adults pursuing lifelong learning, technology and web-based videoconferencing can help to overcome some of the barriers that may limit them from accessing programs, such as geography, mobility, monetary or educational restrictions. Therefore, our research aim is to investigate how the use of videoconferencing can create greater and more equally distributed access to older adults in search of social connectedness through lifelong learning in comparison to traditional in-person education alone.
Lifelong learning institutes are continuously evolving and most recent technological advancements, increased adoption of technology and reduction of the digital divide are making the pursuit of online lifelong learning more advanced and appealing to adult learners. Through a mixed method, sequential design we will draw a comparative analysis of a current videoconferencing older adult learning group to older adults who do not use video and internet in lifelong learning. We hope to establish that videoconferencing allows learners to enrich their lives through education at any time and anywhere, and that these new tools integrated into older adult education will transfer knowledge and enhance the community experience.