Learning about Lifelong Learning: A Look at Older Adults’ Motivations & Barriers to Active Learning

Research shows that the old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is highly inaccurate. According to a 2021 survey conducted by Research Strategy Group for AARP, 55% of Americans aged 45 and better are actively learning new things. The survey (which was completed by 1,515 participants aged 45 and older) asked respondents to reflect on their experiences with learning, including their interests, motivations, pitfalls, and barriers. The results provide an enlightening glimpse into the learning processes of older adults.

The respondents exhibited patterns in their learning interests and motivations. Though learning interests were diverse, most were interested in learning about mental health, food and drink, history, basic technology, and diet and nutrition. Respondents were also primarily motivated to learn for personal gain and self-betterment. Rather than being driven by social pressure, for instance, respondents were primarily driven to gain new knowledge in order to stay mentally sharp and remain in charge of their own personal well-being. The majority (83%) particularly believed that learning is vital in keeping your brain active.

Though respondents indicated an interest in learning new things, they noted potential barriers that are preventing them from following through with their endeavors. 26% indicated that cost is preventing them from learning something new; however, the likelihood of engaging in learning did not differ by income. Of those 60 and better, 16% further indicated that ageism has made them hesitant to try new things. Interestingly, however, concerns about ageism were particularly common among those who were already actively learning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the likelihood that older adults turn to the internet for guidance when learning new things. 72% of respondents noted that YouTube has become a popular source for information and 63% have particularly turned to YouTube to develop a new skill. So if you are interested in learning new things but don’t know where to start, you are not alone; resources like YouTube are excellent sources for guidance.

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Kakulla, B. (March 2022). Older adults embrace lifelong learning for personal growth. AARP Research. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/life/info-2022/lifelong-learning-older-adults.html


Self-Fulfilling ProphecyHow Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years

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