Part II: Adult Education in Elder Care Communities

Welcome to Part II of our series on adult education in elder care settings! Every person on earth is born with a desire to learn, but 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! 

An important element of adult education is curriculum development. When instructors in elder care communities develop curriculum, it’s important first to assess the learning needs of the community they are working with. To gauge levels of knowledge when teaching a group of adults, it’s vital to ask questions in a non-threatening manner. These questions might sound something like, “What are some of the myths about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia that you have heard?” An instructor might also ask “What has your experience been with your doctor since you were first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?“ If an instructor is invited to speak to a small group in an elder care community (virtually these days, of course!) they might ask the director if there are specific topics related to memory care that the residents would be interested in discussing. Instructors should make sure to prioritize the topics most relevant to the group they’re teaching. For any adult learner, too much information given at one time is overwhelming. 

In any adult learning class, it’s useful to clearly identify what the learning objectives and outcomes are. Objectives are what a learner is able to achieve as a result of a program whereas an outcome is generally a more indirect result of the educational program. Both objectives and outcomes should be measurable and relevant. A milestone concept in adult education is to explain what you were going to teach, teach, and then describe what you have taught.

Two other helpful elements in adult education are breaking up into small groups and media presentations. It’s important that teachers and instructors use multimedia resources that are relevant to their population. Small group discussions are more likely to satisfy an individual’s need to be heard as well as provide space for participants to ask questions. Some examples of multimedia resources an instructor could use in a class at an elder care community would be videos, DVDs or PowerPoint presentations. Assisted living residents may also appreciate video clips that are embedded within a PowerPoint presentation. Another effective method for integrating knowledge into adult education classes are case studies.

When using case studies, a class might look at a real life situation in order to develop problem-solving skills and to evaluate how that case study might apply to their particular lived experience. For example, a small group could look at case studies showcasing the daily schedules of residents living in a memory care community in Mission Hills. When patients at an elder care community are under stress they will retain new information for much shorter periods than in situations of lowered stress. Written educational materials are helpful, especially for adult learners with memory loss. Pictorial learning is easier to recognize and recall than verbal learning.

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!