Part I: Adult Education in the Assisted and Independent Living Context

Every person on earth is born with a desire to learn. The learning process happens naturally within a social context and learning is an experiential process as well as a cognitive process. There are some important differences between the way children might be educated and the way that adult learners respond best to education. The principles of adult learning and education have important implications for individuals living in elder care or memory care communities. At Bay View Assisted Living (and at our sister locations,  Mesa View Senior Assisted Living and Harbor View Senior Assisted Living) we work hard to incorporate adult education principles into our programs! 

Adults care about the practical application of educational programming. For most adults, time is one of their most valuable assets. It’s important that adults feel a strong sense of relevancy when they participate in a class or program. Participants with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia should be considered co-facilitators with the instructor in the sense that participants will also teach one another. Adult learning is best implemented when it is self-directed and when the instructor seeks out feedback from the participants. Creating a culture of respect for the uniqueness of each individual and the variety of backgrounds they bring to the table is imperative for high-quality learning.

An important principle in adult education is that it is more favorable to have short discussions about a particular topic more frequently than attempting to convey everything about a topic into one talk. It’s also important for educators in an elder care community to have consistent messaging and a consistent communication style with residents. When adults perceive a need for whatever it is they’re learning, they will be much more receptive to it, therefore, educators should be on the lookout for teachable moments. It’s important for adult educators to come up with activities that are challenging and creative, lead to active rather than passive participation, and that the educator demonstrates a passion for the subject. There are three main types of learning: cognitive skills, which refers to learning that builds on previous experiences and involves critical thought, psychomotor skills, and affective learning. In an independent living or assisted living community, instructional activities that bring in all three of these types of learning will generally be more successful.

Some of the general adult education principles include: ensuring that the timing and contents of teaching occur when participants are ready to learn, ensure that information is presented in manageable quantities, structure activities in increments, giving explicit instructions, providing immediate feedback, understanding the importance of nonverbal communication, using multimedia tools, and identifying local support resources. In addition, the learning environment can be enhanced by being aware of the lighting, the temperature and the comfortability of the room. 

Having a social aspect to adult education in elder care settings has proven to be very successful. Instructors should greet each resident warmly, show genuine interest in each person and make sure to include time for breaks. During break times, providing refreshments and drinks is helpful so that participants have the space to socialize, build rapport and strengthen a sense of community. Requesting written evaluations and informal verbal evaluations are helpful ways to gauge if adult education in an elder care community is effective and meaningful to the residents. Evaluations from participants provide important information to improve and modify programs and curriculums.

We value adult education principles as we develop programs and events for the members of our communities at Bay View Assisted Living, Mesa View Senior Assisted Living and Harbor View Senior Assisted Living. Thanks for learning along with us!