Access to Learning!

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“I’ve done something different and tried something new. I’d do it again, I like a challenge.”

Creative Paths CIC has been delivering its Access to Learning for older adults living in care for almost a decade. This has been achieved through working in partnership with INSPIRE learning who have provided support and funding since 2013.

Our specialist discreet learning provision focuses on reaching out to potential older learners with ill health living in adult social care, people who would often struggle to take part in a course. The average age of one of our learners is 85, and we provide courses to over 300 people living in care settings each year, people who would not of had the opportunity to join in mainstream learning.

“I like painting, it gives you a thrill. You find you’ve got something you really want to do, I really enjoyed it.”

We believe everyone should have access to community learning, our service brings learning to the learner in a setting, their home, that is safe, meets their health and care needs and is comfortable.

Lifelong learning has plenty of benefits for society, beyond employment skills. This participation in learning has wider health and social benefits, helping people improve their mental wellbeing and enjoy their lives more. Greater involvement in activities such as learning that promotes engagement, conversation and friendships provide a wealth of benefits for the participant.

These are extensive, with plenty of evidence for how they are beneficial for people’s cognition skills and general wellbeing. People often view learning as something done only by younger people in schools, college, or university, but there is no reason that people cannot be part of education and learning throughout their life. People in retirement have the time to devote to a hobby they perhaps have been doing for a while, or taking up something entirely new, such as a long-held interest they have previously been unable to pursue. They now have the time to explore and be creative, fulfilling long-held wishes and ambitions. Taking up learning again can be a great way to do this, and to stretch and challenge already developed experience and skills.

Our lesson planning incorporates aspects of the group dynamic and engagement strategies of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy. This is a brief, evidence-based treatment for people with mild to moderate dementia and provides participants with a learner centred routine, and gives them greater ownership of the session.

“It’s been very interesting and very informative.”

Evidence of the benefits of learning during the latter stages of life is strong, including research showing how a structured learning environment can be beneficial to learners living with dementia. The benefits of ensuring that learning happens in a care environment are clearly positive when all of this is taken into consideration, with particular benefits in terms of supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Three of the main benefits of learning in older age are:

A sense of achievement

  • People living in adult social care are usually the recipients of things. They receive care, meals cooked for them, receive support with finances, and so on. This can be frustrating for people who have spent years managing their lives and having a greater sense of autonomy. By doing a course, and learning, people can feel involved in something which provides structure and an end goal.

    Outside engagement

  • Having an outside provider offer education and learning opportunities to residents in care is a great support to carers and activity coordinators. This provides the opportunity for both staff and residents to see a different approach and have something structured to look forward to and learn from.

    Mental health & wellbeing

  • Linked with the sense of achievement as an outcome is the way that learning can great positive wellbeing and support participant’s mental health. Being part of a group supports socialising and a sense of achieving together, and something to look forward to.

    “I’ve absolutely enjoyed it, it’s brought back lots of memories.”

    We can recognise that people living in adult social care often have the time and opportunity to take part in learning and can be overlooked as potential recipients of education. They are often people who could benefit the most from some of the soft outcomes of learning, so it is important to reach out to them. By having a specialist learning provision that does this, Creative Paths plays our part in ensuring that learning is accessible and attainable for these hidden learners.

    Chris Boote

    Learning Director – Creative Paths EM CIC – Proud to be a Not for Profit

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