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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



It's never too late to learn: A study of older literacy students in Dublin

Posted by Ronnad Baot Murphy

Report's Executive Summary:

Appropriate lifelong learning can play a positive role in promoting active citizenship among older learners. It can maintain mental and physical health, increase general well-being and self confidence, and help combat feelings of social isolation or exclusion (Withnall, 2007; Tucket & McAuley, 2005; Katz, 2000). However, a significant number of adults with low literacy and numeracy skills don’t always see themselves as having a problem with reading, writing, numbers or all three. Indeed many older people have developed successful workarounds or strategies to disguise their difficulties with literacy or numeracy or both. These can include: a spouse who reads and writes on their behalf; honing memory skills; and avoiding situations where literacy or numeracy is required. These strategies can be extremely fragile and when they collapse or breakdown it can become an emotional crisis or challenge for the person involved.



The primary objective of this research was the systematic investigation of the coping strategies that older learners identify as most effective in disguising problems with literacy or numeracy or both. The research aimed to:

1. describe past experiences of education and educational attainment of the study’s


2. investigate the coping strategies that have been most successful in disguising

problems with literacy, numeracy or both; and

3. examine what happens when these strategies collapse or breakdown.


Resource Author(s): 
National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)
Publication Date:
Tuesday, 1 January, 2008
Language of the document:
Type of resource: 
Studies and Reports