Older Australian's motivation for university enrollment and their perception of the role of tertiary education in promoting healthy aging: a national cross-sectional study
Brownie, S 2014, 'Older Australian's motivation for university enrollment and their perception of the role of tertiary education in promoting healthy aging: a national cross-sectional study', Educational Gerontology, vol. 40, no. 10, pp. 723-736.
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The aims of this study were to describe the characteristics of older Australian university students (aged 60+ years); to identify the factors that motivate late-life, tertiary-level learning; and to capture older students’ views about the role of tertiary-level learning in promoting healthy aging. In 2012, an invitation to participate in the study was sent to all 39 Australian universities, seeking their support and cooperation to recruit students aged 60+ years into the study. Eligible participants were asked to complete an online survey that comprised a range of closed and open-ended questions related to their university study. Narrative data were coded into themes using an inductive approach in QSR NVivo. A total of 626 older students completed the online survey. Just over half (55%) of the sample were women, 86% were aged between 60–70 years of age, 49% held a graduate qualification, and the majority (69%) were born in Australia. Participants cited a range of personal and vocational motivations for enrolling in a university course. They believed that university-level learning kept the mind and brain active; enabled access to an interesting, challenging, and purposeful activity; promoted social engagement and intergenerational communication; and improved confidence, knowledge, and skills. Future prospective experimental studies of older learners are required to objectively assess the impact of university-level learning on their health and wellbeing, including cognitive function. These data will quantify the benefits of tertiary-level learning to older people and society.