Handbook of Sociology of Aging

Part of the series Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research pp 229-244


Learning and Aging

  • Emily JovicAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Western Ontario Email author 
  • , Julie McMullin

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When we think about learning we often think about it in relation to formal education. Yet, education and learning are not necessarily the same things; one can go to school and not learn anything, while others learn without participating in formal schooling. Nonetheless, in sociology, the study of learning has largely centered on the study of education and its institutions and structural features, with an attendant focus on inequality and the individuals and groups most typically served by the system, namely, younger people. Although the adult educational complex has certainly expanded in recent years, 248% from the 1970s to 1990s in the United States (Hamil-Luker and Uhlenberg 2002:S324), there remains a considerable degree of age-based compartmentalization when it comes to learning, with an emphasis on training young people for the labor market. Hence, there continues to be an overall lack of scholarly attention to learning later in life.