Fostering social policies for engagement of older men in learning and improvement of their health and wellbeing

Mark, Rob and Golding, Barry (2012) Fostering social policies for engagement of older men in learning and improvement of their health and wellbeing. International Journal of Education and Ageing, 2 (3). pp. 221-236. ISSN 2044-5458

Full text not available in this repository.Request a copy


A range of demographic education, training, health and wellbeing data in developed nations confirm that men are experiencing a range of dilemmas as they age, particularly around and after the age of retirement. Adult learning and policy research have seldom linked learning and wellbeing, particularly in relation to older men. More commonly, learning by adults is analysed and researched in terms of its contribution to workplace skills for people of working age. Our paper is based primarily on findings and insights from recent, mixed method, field research in Ireland and Australia. It suggests that engagement in learning in informal community settings can have a positive impact on older men’s health and wellbeing. Our research has been undertaken in the context of population ageing and deteriorating employment and post-work recreation options for people with low skills not in paid work in many developed nations. We regard it as timely to examine new methods and policies for integrating older men into society that are less focussed on researching and providing services for older men from deficit and client-centred models, and which take more account of older men’s agency and holistic, informal learning and wellbeing needs in community settings. Our paper reflects on what lessons our empirical research findings might have for policy makers and for government and service providers interested in promoting men’s improved health and wellbeing in the ‘Third Age’ and implications for creating a new culture for lifelong learning which encourages the engagement of older men in community settings. Specifically our paper draws conclusions from attitudes and experiences of older men already learning in community contexts in Australia and Ireland and from complementary research carried out in the UK. In exploring some factors that shape attitudes of men towards learning, we seek to explain why some older men are often overlooked in local and community learning provision and policies. Our paper identifies several types of informal, group-learning environments, contexts and organisations that successfully and positively engage older men and promote wellbeing for individuals, families and communities. Finally, we examine and discuss current policy and practice for older men’s learning in Ireland and Australia and look at how policies might positively re-engage older men in other, similar, developed nations.