This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Learning Styles of Older Adults in Educational Settings




Heenan, Judith

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Abstract Learning Styles of Older Adults in Educational Settings, is an investigation into the learning styles of the baby boomer generation who are now entering retirement. With typical retirement at 65 years of age and life expectancy now 80 to 85 years of age, millions of retirees will have fifteen to twenty years of healthy retirement to fill. This change has created a new demographic of older adults--baby boomers. Today’s seniors want to be productive during retirement and many plan to use those years to fulfill dreams and goals postponed during child rearing years, or when careers took priority. The activities seniors want to pursue will require further education, training, or new learning and millions of older adults who will be entering learning environments to acquire the skills necessary to remain active and engaged during the retirement years (Narushima, Liu, & Diestelkamp, 2013; Parks, Evans, & Getcg, 2013). Studies reveal that remaining involved in life and pursuing new learning experiences promotes not only a longer life but, a healthier, more fulfilling, and meaningful life in the senior years, reducing the dependency on social services and thus taxpayers (Taylor, Morin, Parker, Cohn, & Wang, 2009). Universities, community colleges, technical, and trade schools, as well as civic organizations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations must be prepared to meet the learning needs of this new demographic of older adults who will be entering retirement and seeking educational opportunities that will allow them to fully participate in a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically. This study was conducted to determine the learning style preferences of older adults, and will prepare educators and instructors to adapt to the needs of this new demographic of learners. Participants were surveyed by age, race, and sex using the four constructs of the Gregorc Learning Style Delineator: Concrete Sequential, Abstract Sequential, Concrete Random and Abstract Random (Gregorc, 1984). Three chi square analyses were conducted to assess the learning preference of each of the participants according to each category of age, sex, and race with results indicating categorical preferences. Learning style preferences showed no statistical significance between different ages and sexes. However, the difference between the learning style preferences by race was statistically significant. Individual characteristics vary, but this research provides generalizations as a guideline to assess learner needs and will be of vital importance to the success of new learning for our older adult population especially in racially diverse learning environments.