I don’t know if I’ve told you, but I’m getting a Master’s Degree in Training and Development. One of the classes I’m taking this semester is Adult Learning Theory, and I just read the most fascinating article. It’s called Cognitive Learning Applied to Older Adult Learners and Technology by Chaffin and Harlow (2005). One of the more interesting things they were talking about is ageism. Their point is that when people around an older adult believe the adult can’t learn, the older adult won’t learn. Also using words like “dearie” or “Young” decreased the motivation and will for the older adult to learn. It’s almost as if our society is keeping older adults from learning.
This got me to thinking why? Why do we believe that older adults can’t learn? Why do we treat older adults as infantile? I have a feeling this is going to change drastically over the next 20 years or so as the boomers continue to age. As a generation, I cannot see them allowing others to treat them as children, can you?
What implications does this have for me? I know that when I’m writing my training materials I need to keep this in mind. But more importantly, when I have conversations about older adult learners, be they relatives, friends, or co-workers, I need to be mindful of the words I use, and the attitudes I convey.