UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Physiological changes in age which affect adult learning performance Lund, Mary Macleod


The purpose of this thesis was to review research on the developmental physiological processes of aging which have significance for adult learning. Attention was directed, specifically, to the progressive, age-related changes most immediately associated with the skills of communication: vision, audition, speech, reaction and movement times to visual and auditory stimuli, perception, retention, and performance facility. Affective reaction to physiological aging was also considered. In recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of the relationship of aging to learning, research from diverse areas was examined. Psychological inferences, in some instances, predominate since the study is concerned not with aging but with learning concomitant with the aging processes. References of recent date were normally consulted. Investigations have revealed no "typical adult" nor even a typical or an average progression in any aspect of physiological development; therefore, an individualized response to any adult learning situation can be expected. The evidence with the greatest impact for the education of adults lies in the areas of previous learning, recency of learning, and habits of learning. There are educational needs not now met by adult education; not the least of these is the need for understanding the processes involved in physiological aging. It is well categorized that older people can learn and under certain conditions do learn, but adults being different learners require a different social, educational, and physical environment in which to learn. The facilities at present provided for child-youth education and "adapted" for adults present some frustrating physical limitations for adult learners. Adults have distinctive needs for learning. Where these needs have been catered to, the measure of success has been high, the failure rate low. There is an awareness of the fallacy of setting arbitrary limits to successful achievement based solely on chronological divisions.

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