Tip #875: There is a New Gogy in Town

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”  John Holt

Pedagogy focuses on how children learn best. Andragogy focuses on how adults learn best. And now there is geragogy, which focuses on how older adults learn best.


The idea is that elderly learners have distinctive physical, psychological, and social realities that must be considered when designing and facilitating learning programs. And if you’re wondering who is considered an “elderly learner,” it’s someone who is more than 70 years old.

Geragogy is not a new idea. Jacques Lebel introduced the concept when he published his book Beyond Andragogy to Geragogy in 1978. However, I had never heard of it until I saw a reference to the Geragogy Guidelines that were just published this year. They were developed by The Council for Third Age in collaboration with the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

Geragogy Principles

The general principles of the Guidelines concern adapting the learning experience to accommodate elderly learners’ likely physical, cognitive, and/or psychological issues.

Poor eyesight? Provide course materials in hard copy that has large type and avoids serif fonts, italics, and all capital letters. Poor hearing? Speak louder and clearer, without jargon or technical terms.

Difficulty comprehending? Speak slower. Schedule time for questions before, during, and after class. Place participants in smaller groups so they can more easily hear and help each other.

A lack of confidence? Perhaps a fear of failure, a poor self-image, self-consciousness because of limited prior education, bad experiences in other training situations, or anxiety over using new technology. Create a positive learning environment and a strong social support system with their peers. Structure a building block approach to learning new tasks that will help the participants build confidence as they complete each step. Recognize and celebrate each success, no matter how small.

Geragogy Teaching Methods

The Guidelines also propose teaching methods they feel are responsive to senior learners’ characteristics and preferences.

  • Use a facilitative style of instruction.
  • Establish a collaborative approach to learning.
  • Make sure the content is relevant, provides practical information, and builds skills.
  • Keep the conversation interesting, lively, and engaging.
  • Validate their knowledge, experience, and perspectives.
  • Incorporate a variety of participatory, problem-solving, and hands-on activities.
  • Use small discussion groups to stimulate social interaction.
  • Provide opportunities to serve as mentors or co-facilitators.
  • Build in periodic breaks to keep the seniors refreshed and alert.

Are the Geragogy Guidelines Unique?

These principles and teaching methods are identified in the Geragogy Guidelines. But is anything mentioned here unique to elderly learners? Shouldn’t ALL learning programs, regardless of the learners’ age, incorporate these methods?

Isn’t it true that any learner, again regardless of age, might have the physical, cognitive, or psychological issues mentioned above? Shouldn’t all trainers make the very same accommodations proposed in the Guidelines?

I have never distinguished between pedagogy and andragogy because it seemed to me that they both should require and result in the same learning experience. I feel the same way about geragogy.

I believe that all learners benefit from training that builds on the learners’ prior knowledge and experience, has relevant practical content, incorporates participatory skill-building activities, engages the learners, provides a positive learning environment, treats the learners with respect, and sets them up for success.

And I believe that all trainers need to exhibit empathy, patience, humility, and understanding, as well as a sincere commitment to helping all learners gain the knowledge and skills they need.

I know that the population is aging. I’m part of that cohort. Perhaps I will need a trainer who can be more patient with me, be willing to repeat what I couldn’t hear the first time, and answer my many questions. But I would hope that my adult children and young grandchildren would enjoy the very same patience, support, and understanding from their trainers. Wouldn’t you?

Question: What similarities and differences do you see between andragogy and geragogy?

May your learning be sweet- and safe.


#learninganddevelopment #andragogyandgeragogy #geragogy #elderlylearners #geragogyguidelines

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