Critical Geragogy in Long-term care settings

by Kelsey Harvey
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Written by: Kelsey Harvey
November 10, 2016

Popularist views speculate that, due to web-based expansion, education is more accessible than ever. While that may be true for some, there are several populations for which access to formal education is still restricted. One such population is older adults who live in long-term care residences, for whom social programming is primarily restricted to the activities planned and delivered by the residence in which the older adult lives. Therefore, many older adults are no longer able to engage in educational programming unless the long-term residence in which they live offers such programming.

The aim of the research that I plan to conduct will explore how critical geragogy is employed in long-term care settings across Ontario, Canada. Geragogy is the method and practice of educating older adults. Historically, the principles of geragogy did not discriminate between educational programs that patronized versus programs that empowered older adults. In the former model, educators control the learning environment and old adult learners take a passive position. For individuals residing in long-term care residences, for whom many aspect of their daily living are already controlled by the institution, this patronizing and passive educational practice becomes another means of rendering the older adult as powerless. Critical researchers have argued that educational programs aimed at older adults should examine relationships of power and emancipate older adult learners, thus empowering older adult learners (Formosa, 2010). For my dissertation, I will examine if educational programs offered to older adults in long-term care residences fits within the framework of critical geragogy, wherein the older adult learner is in control of their learning and their unique learning needs are recognized and met. In practice, critical geragogy requires older adults to evaluate their experiences with education and advocate for changes that would better fit their needs.

Continued education has been linked to positive health, psychological, social, and cognitive benefits. In long-term care residences, education can enhance the quality of lives of older adults and help them to foster relationships with their peers. Unfortunately, I anticipate that few long-term care residences offer educational programming, and of the educational programs offered, few employ a critical approach. My research may, therefore, identify a gap between the theory of critical geragogy and how it is implemented in practice. My hope is that my research will continue to advance critical geragogy as an avenue for older adults to stay socially and politically engaged.



Findsen, B. & Formosa, M. (2011). Lifelong learning in later life: A handbook on older adult learning. Rotterdam, NL: Sense Publishers.

Formosa, M. (2012). Critical geragogy: Situating theory in practice. Journal of Contemporary Educational Studies / Sodobna Pedagogika, 63(5), 36-54.

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