Introducing learning opportunities for older people

For older people, taking part in activities can improve their memory and dexterity, increase their appetite, give them greater levels of confidence, help them socialise, or just make them smile and enjoy life more.

Learning is not just about skills and qualifications that help people get on in life.  Learning also helps improve the lives and well-being of everyone who participates and helps us to build a better society. Learning for older people in care settings is a mixture of fun, challenge and mental stimulus, and helps in the maintenance of social, physical and mental skills.

Learning can take many forms; for example, chair-based exercise, watercolour painting, digital photography, reading groups, gardening and poetry. It can bring massive improvements to individuals’ health, well-being and confidence – all the more if their achievements can be showcased through displays and exhibitions of their work, and seen by families, friends and the wider public.

Here is an example of how a regular activity can be enhanced to provide more opportunities for learning:

A regular session which involves singing familiar songs is fun, entertaining and encourages physical activity. Learning new songs also provides mental stimulation and a memory challenge. Asking participants to suggest their own favourites respects individuality and can strengthen a sense of identity. Asking older people to plan the programme of songs for the next session provokes discussion, stimulates social interaction and encourages thinking ahead – and music can provoke memories which can be an exciting gateway to shared reminiscence and valuing of the past.