The physical and cognitive changes that take place as people age have great impacts on their learning capabilities. Older people tend to react much slower to learning than young people. Therefore, they take more time when learning new things than young people do. However, they can successfully learn new things by having controlled learning pace. Additionally, adults have lower vision which decreases as they age and this contributes further to low learning abilities. Hearing also declines but at a later age than vision. Long term memory ability has been shown to decline at a higher rate compared to short term memory and sensory abilities. Learning through social activities and practices is far much effective than other types of learning such as classroom learning. Adults learn new things effectively through social activities such as:
- Art – One considerable activity which should be included in adults’ learning program is art. It involves sculpturing, painting and making drawings. Alongside having scheduled art classes, frequent visits to art supply stores are essential to introduce the adult learners to art activities in a much more practical way. Scheduled classes may as well be planned in the art stores to allow the learners to learn as they practice. Similarly, art collection activities may be used for adult learners where they study various scenes of arts, collect arts by visiting various galleries and take courses on the same.
- Gardening – Many adults especially those who own private homes have great interests in gardening. This could be used as a study area for them where they are given the chance to learn more about gardening. This could be done by providing diverse elements of learning to enable them to practice and learn different aspects of gardening that they had never practiced at home. For example, one may have only grown annual flowers at home but such a program would give the person the chance to learn other basics such as cultivation of vegetables and trees, perennial beds and rock gardens. While most time is used in the garden, the off season could be used as the time for studying and learning so as to get clear understanding of the gardening activities.
- Clubs – Adults may as well indulge in learning by joining various clubs, political parties or even prayer groups where they have frequent social occasions. These would give them the chance to learn new things from each other through discussions and related activities.
- Travelling – Adult learners can use travelling as a unique activity to learn and travel within their own countries as well as overseas. The significance of this activity is that the adults get to attend short courses on the places where they want to visit and they get to learn on the basic information of such places such as the geographical sites and history. This will enable them to learn more and much easier once they visit the countries.
Due to these factors, educational programs for the elderly are designed in a manner that is different from those of the young people so as to suit their cognitive as well as physical capabilities. While adult learning focuses more on learning through experience and practice, educational programs for the young offered in colleges and schools focuses on formative learning. This involves critical assessments of various assumptions, examination of oneself and exploration of options and ideas among others.