ERG SES D 09, Tertiary and Lifelong Education
Driven by declines in fertility and improvements in health and longevity, world’s population is ageing rapidly. The number of world population over age 60 is projected by the UN Population Division to increase from just under 841 million in 2013 (representing 11% of world population) to over 2 billion in 2050 (representing 22% of world population). As the world’s most populous country, China is facing serious pressures. The aging process in China has been notably rapid, taking only 18 years for the structure of population to shift from an adult-dominated type to an elderly-dominated type (Wang Zhuqing, 2012). According to China's National Committee on Aging, China's elderly citizens already make up 22 percent of the world's elderly population, and it is expected to increase to 26 percent by the end of 2050. The rapidly changing number represents one of the crowning achievements in the old days but also a significant challenge. Longer lives must be planned for. How to meet the challenge of an ageing population has been raised as an urgent agendum in many countries, especially in China.
The World Health Organisation ([WHO], 2002) has proposed a model of active ageing based on optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance quality of life for people as they age. Within this framework, elderly learning is assumed to be an important factor in facilitating participation in society and allowing adults to enjoy a positive quality of life as they age. Literature reviews on older adults and learning suggest that participation in educational activities in later life not only has health benefits (Boulton-Lewis, Buys, & Lovie-Kitchin, 2006) but also shows a positive impact on quality of life, financial security, increased social participation, reduced dependency and care costs, and the delay of cognitive decline (Cusack, 1995; Dench & Regan, 2000; Cusack & Thompson, 2003; Hammond, 2004; Hansen, 2004; Feinstein, Link, Wadsworth, & Richards, 2007).
Although the benefits of elderly learning are widely acknowledged, many older individuals remain not involved in all kinds of educational activities. In China, it was reported that less than 20% of older people residing in urban areas engage in learning activities regularly and only 5% of seniors have the learning experience in the University of Third Aged by the end of 2013. Many external and internal obstacles influence the educational participation to some extent. Therefore, it is important to take learning participation barriers for older adults into consideration in order to allow attractive and sustainable learning experiences.
Various propositions have been put forward to explain why participation declines with age, and several barriers are identified in the literature, which include situational obstacles (Cross,1981; Darkenwald, & Merriam,1982; Brockett, 1997; Xiuru Zhan, 2004), institutional obstacles (Cross,1981; Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982; Brockett, 1997; Qinmin Lin, 2002), informational obstacles (Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982; Qinmin Lin, 2002), and psychosocial obstacles (Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982; Hemei Peng, 1993). Although several researchers developed and used Learning Barriers measures in their studies (e.g.: Darkenwald & Valentine, 1985; McWhirter, 2000), the target populations for the majority of existing learning barriers scales were adults or younger learners, and not seniors. Moreover, these scales were developed from a Western perspective and therefore possibly not suitable for Chinese older adults because of different cultural background and an education system. Therefore, this study was to develop an instrument to measure learning participation barriers among Chinese older adults, and conduct a psychometric evaluation of the newly-developed scale in terms of reliability and validity.
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