This paper summarises the academic literature on the efficacy of life-long learning interventions as a conduit for promoting health equity. The fact that a positive relationship between engagement in learning across the lifetime and health outcomes exists is incontrovertible. Whilst it is acknowledged that our ability to learn declines slightly over the lifecourse this could be largely mitigated by suitably designed curriculum frameworks. There are notable benefits from engaging in the process of learning by way of keeping the brain active, socialising etc. and the outcomes of learning by gaining knowledge about, for example, new technologies, health behaviours etc. Through these mechanisms Life-Long Learning (LLL) serves as a channel to active and healthy ageing. However, what is interrogated in this paper is the quality of the evidence that we currently hold to provide a solid foundation to inform policy and practice. Many of the interventions reported in the academic literature make claims for best practice but evidence of replicability, validity and sustainability are weak. Significant issues such as the problems of defining ‘learning’ and ‘health’, methodological issues such as the ability to confirm causality and the influence of exogenous contingencies make it difficult to say with any confidence which LLL interventions would significantly address health equity. It is clear that those in the field of Later Life Learning would welcome a robust analysis of the data available in order to determine ‘what works’. Closer alliance between research and practice would benefit both the older learner and those tasked with allocating resources to enable LLL to be implemented across Europe. Only then might we be able to realise the full potential of LLL interventions as a tool to address health equity across Europe and beyond.
|Published - 2015