Book By: Brian Findsen
Review By: Alice Bullington Davis
Academic Advisor, PACE
Marymount University, Arlington, VA

Although eager to meet the needs of older students, some advisors need more knowledge of the unique situations of retirees and the elderly. This book may or may not provide it.

Older Americans are increasingly urged to “use or lose” their mental capacities. Thus they are a prime, if neglected, market for lifelong learning. Consequently, those who advise elderly students are the presumptive audience for Learning Later.  More specifically, an educational specialist in gerontology may be enriched by the breadth of this text while the generalist may find it a useful, if verbose, overview.  This text addresses educational gerontology, adult development, social change, inclusion of older adults despite barriers, and current trends--from policy issues to “demands of technological innovation” (p. vii). The advising pragmatist, however, will likely be frustrated. Instead of handy tips on, for example, increasing enrollment or student satisfaction, one finds a daunting amalgamation of data.  Thus, the text, with its extensive bibliography and enlightening charts, is best suited for policymakers or scholars in gerontology. It may, moreover, intrigue those interested in international pedagogy--examples range from New Zealand and Australia to the U.S.  If readers share Findsen’s affinity for “democratization of education” (p. ix), all the better. Conversely, the work’s style can be cumbersome.

Most non-academics seeking concise strategies will likely be deterred by the text’s digressions and multiple foci. Yet its goal is to enable “practitioners working with older adults to help demystify educational institutions and to help build better bridges between these providers of learning and opportunities and older people’s daily living routines” (p. 11). 

Findsen argues for an expansive definition of learning, noting that older adults have often been marginalized (p. 11). Barriers to their participation are situational, institutional, informational, and psychosocial (p. 74). A few are easily minimized: “user-friendly enrollment procedures” can replace “unexciting methods of teaching and learning” and “brochure printed in too small type” (p. 74). Findsen summarizes McGivney’s (1991)[MAM1]  useful strategies for increasing participation of marginalized groups to promote “equity and social justice,” “pragmatism and expedience,” and “national self-interest” (p. 75).  

Advocacy recurs, along with an emphasis on the field’s “critical and social dimensions” (p. 16).   These coexist with a synopsis of key research.  Findsen embraces [MAM2] Freire’s ideals, attempting to “explicitly connect” [issues including “independence or interdependence, technological innovation, cultural variation in aging. . . and social policy challenges”] “with the potential for learning of older adults” (p. 8).  Later, he urges that “the curriculum ideally should be developed in conjunction with the people who constitute the principal learners” (p. 96).  Nonetheless, his own use of primary research here is virtually nonexistent

Elsewhere, Findsen argues that educational administrators habitually see the trees instead of the forest, effectively: 

The tendency . . . is to see adults as numbers in a room or statistics on a chart from a      competitive perspective. This distracts attention away from the fundamental notion that effective teaching and learning occurs [sic] in a non-threatening supportive situation where social relationships are important and take time to foster (p. 97).

Advisors seeking accessible, practical information should look elsewhere. Yet, for the academic theorist or policymaker with time to ingest and absorb the work’s dense and wide-ranging text, Learning Later offers rich and cogent analysis.  For these specific readers, epiphanies may result.

Freire, P. (1984).  Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  New York: Continuum.
McGivney, V (1991). Education’s For Other People: Access to Education for Non-Participant Adults (pp. 32-33).  Leicester: NIACE.

Learning Later. (2005) Book By: Brian Findsen. Review By: Alice Bullington Davis
Melbourne, FL: Krieger Publishing.  184 pp., $33.50. ISBN # 1-57524-218-4.


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