Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What is Adult Education for Older Adults?

As we look ahead to a new future in Adult Education, we need to make sure that Parent Education and Older Adults Programs are part of that future, because certainly, parents and older adults are going to be!

As has been mentioned on this and other blogs, Adult Education was devastated these past 5 years, in particular Adult Education as delivered by K12 Adult Schools, and of their programs, Parent Ed and Older Adults were cut worst of all.

Older Adults classes survive at some schools, but with increasingly high fees, some of which price out seniors in need.

(Here's an article that speaks to that issue.)

All this while we face an ever increasing senior population.

Hit the "read more" link to learn more about this important issue and why we need to stay awake and active.

The Regional Consortia (Adult Schools, Community Colleges, Correctional Facilities, and other Adult Ed providers) which will run Adult Ed in 2 years, are already planning what that new future will look like.

As part of the planning, they must assess the needs for Adult Ed in their regions and the courses that are currently offered to meet them.

Given the fact the Boomers are rapidly spilling over into retirement, that's a little like laying track for a train as it bears down on you - and just as important.

So let's take a look at what is Adult Education for Older Adults:

The CDE - California Department of Education - CalEdFacts - defines it as

Older Adults—Classes designed specifically to deal with issues related to aging. These classes provide intellectual, physical, financial, and social stimulation and resources addressing the demands of a growing and active older population.

As we all know, there is great range in function in seniors - from operating at full and maximum capacity, as 74 year old Gov. Brown does, to functioning at full capacity mentally but with some physical limitations, to good physical function but with some memory issues, to any number of other combinations including temporary limitations such as happen after a stroke, heart attack, or the loss of a spouse. 

Older Adults classes benefit all of us in two ways:

*  Enabling seniors to operate at full capacity - and let's remember that the majority of seniors are contributors to our culture, whether that's in a paid or unpaid capacity.  Yes, the frail elderly are often unable to contribute in a way that our culture recognizes as valuable, but they also paid into a system, through time and dollars, which they have a right to expect access to now when they need it.  And all the other seniors?  They're the ones picking up your kid after school, writing legislative policy, and volunteering at the Red Cross.  I think it's pretty good having them around.

*  Keeping healthcare costs down.  Try googling, "the benefit of exercise in seniors" and then count the number of hits you get.  Believe me, it will be in the thousands.  Or try this one, "the benefit of social engagement on cognitive function in seniors."  Or this one, "learning new things and brain functions in seniors."

Jeri McGovern, who heads the Fifty Plus program at SMAS, describes the importance of OA programs:

"Research repeatedly shows that mature and senior adults who participate in evidence based classes for older adults (pay attention baby boomers) more ably sustain independent, knowledgeable and capable management of personal health (physical, cognitive and psychological/mental health) with successful outcomes. 

That means less falls and costly trips to hospital emergency rooms as a result of  participation in fitness classes designed for senior adults. That means less reliance on prescription medication for lonely \depressed senior adults as a result of participation in classes designed for older learners - classes where they can obtain new skills in the arts, music, in computer communications, and do so with other senior adults who understand the physical and psycho/social related challenges that aging senior adults incur.

 Adult school classes in current affairs offer  a vehicle for older adults to stay in step with the events shaping local, national and international policy. Using the format of teacher facilitated discussion, many political issues are presented in a professional manner with an unbiased sensitivity to the multicultural fabric our the community's constituency. These classes keep older members of our community informed, articulate, and broadens the sphere of knowledge, respect and tolerance for other members of the community. The mature and older population dependably and conscientiously vote, and take great pride in doing so. They were contributors; they still are contributors. They continue to support local schools through property taxes… and gladly so.
 While in their prime, the older members of our community built this multifaceted bridge that provided foundation; the foundation on which we continue to build  and expand upon now, relevant to the needs of the world of today.   Do not amputate their connection. Don't cut off a senior adult's affordable access to educational resource and community. Keep the Older Adult in Adult Education."
Senator Ted Lieu has come out with a strong show of support for Older Classes.
Here's the webpage he's devoted to that, including his terrific write-up on the subject
and here's the petition he created which you can sign to show your support for these classes.
Here's an article from Bill Moyers on the effect of the sequestration on seniors. Sequestration is a separate issue, although it does point out that seniors are getting from all ends. 
I mention the article to pull out these quotes which show the necessity for OA programs:
"Howard Bedlin, vice president of public policy at the National Council of Aging — a nonprofit service and advocacy organization focusing on economically disadvantaged seniors — testified that there are now more than 23 million economically insecure Americans over 60. They struggle with rising energy and healthcare bills, diminished savings and job loss. The recession caused median wealth for people between ages 55 and 74 to decline by approximately 15 percent, and for those over 65 — many of whom now need to continue working or go back to work just to stay afloat — unemployment is at its highest rate since the Great Depression."
"Bedlin also singled out OAA’s cost-saving role in funding evidence-based “fall prevention programs.” One in three seniors falls every year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people ages 65 and older. The resulting injuries are projected to cost the nation $60 billion in 2020.  Research has shown that several local, OAA-supported programs have reduced falls by 30 to 55 percent — which saves money and lives."
Whether we want to save money or gain contribution, it makes no sense for us, as a people, to do anything except mandate funding for Older Adults classes as part of our wonderful Adult Education  system, the one we just saved with the help of seniors. 
It's a moral wrong to cut funding to the very people who built and paid for the program, many of whom voted for Proposition 30, the funds of which are for all branches of public education, not just K12 or CC or SU or UC. 
We are one people and as one people we live - or perish.

Let's hang together, shall we?

Support mandated funding for Older Adults and Parent Education as part of Adult Education.

Contact your legislator to express your support.

More information about the value and necessity of Older Adults Classes here:

The Value of Free Older Adults Classes

The Encore Project - a video about the value of Older Adults Classes

Irma Beserra Nunez video - Irma speaks about the value of OA Classes to the LAUSD Schoolboard

Older Adult Adults Success Stories on OTAN

Stories of Fifty Plus Success at SMAS

A4CAS blogpost about what OA Teacher Mike Lepore and his students to fund and save their class

The SCAN Foundation - facts and information about aging

Fpr context, my "Perspective" piece on on what's happened the past five years in Adult Education.

They supported us.  Now it's our turn to support them.

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