Open Up: The Crucial Role of Intergenerational Learning in Adult Education

The Crucial Role of Intergenerational Learning in Adult Education: A Comprehensive Review


Intergenerational learning, characterized by the exchange of knowledge, skills, and experiences between individuals of different age cohorts, holds significant promise in the realm of adult education. This article aims to provide a comprehensive review of the role of intergenerational learning in adult education, drawing upon a range of academic references to elucidate its multifaceted benefits and implications for lifelong learning.

Fostering Lifelong Learning

Adult education programs often aim to promote lifelong learning by providing opportunities for personal and professional development beyond traditional educational settings (Field & Spence, 2020). Intergenerational learning enriches these programs by fostering dynamic interactions between learners of varying ages, promoting cross-generational knowledge exchange and mutual growth (Holford et al., 2018). Through intergenerational dialogue and collaboration, adult learners gain new perspectives, challenge preconceived notions, and develop a deeper understanding of diverse viewpoints (Sandlin & Clark, 2019). This fosters a culture of lifelong learning that transcends age boundaries and promotes continuous intellectual and personal growth.

Enhancing Social Cohesion

Intergenerational learning initiatives in adult education contribute to social cohesion by bridging generational divides and fostering inclusive learning environments (Findsen & Formosa, 2011). By bringing together individuals from different age groups, these programs promote mutual understanding, respect, and empathy (Hofman & Macht, 2017). Through collaborative learning activities and intergenerational projects, adult learners forge meaningful connections with peers of all ages, thereby strengthening social networks and community bonds (Jarvis & Griffin, 2016). This sense of belonging and collective identity fosters a supportive learning environment where individuals can thrive and contribute to the broader community (Tisdell, 2012).

Promoting Intergenerational Equity

Intergenerational learning in adult education plays a vital role in promoting intergenerational equity by valuing the contributions and experiences of learners across the lifespan (Holford & Mohorčič Špolar, 2019). Older adults, with their wealth of life experiences and practical wisdom, serve as mentors and role models for younger learners, providing guidance and support in their educational journey (Holford et al., 2019). Conversely, younger learners bring fresh perspectives, technological proficiency, and innovative ideas to the learning environment, enriching the educational experience for all participants (Boden & Nedovic-Budic, 2019). This intergenerational reciprocity fosters a sense of shared responsibility and collective investment in the pursuit of lifelong learning goals (Findsen et al., 2015).

Intergenerational learning in adult education holds promise for addressing complex societal challenges by harnessing the collective wisdom and resources of diverse age groups (Biesta, 2019). Through intergenerational dialogue and collaborative problem-solving, adult learners can explore innovative solutions to pressing issues such as environmental sustainability, social justice, and economic inequality (Davies et al., 2018). By leveraging the diverse perspectives and expertise of learners across generations, intergenerational learning initiatives empower individuals to become active agents of social change and contribute to the common good (Field & Leicester, 2017).


In conclusion, intergenerational learning plays a vital role in adult education by promoting lifelong learning, enhancing social cohesion, fostering intergenerational equity, and addressing societal challenges. By creating inclusive learning environments where learners of all ages can engage in meaningful dialogue and collaboration, intergenerational learning initiatives contribute to individual and collective growth. As adult educators continue to explore innovative pedagogical approaches, intergenerational learning remains a valuable tool for promoting lifelong learning and building a more inclusive and equitable society.


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• Boden, D., & Nedovic-Budic, Z. (2019). Ageing and Digital Technology: Designing and Evaluating Emerging Technologies for Older Adults. Routledge.

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• Field, J., & Leicester, M. (2017). Lifelong Learning and Social Justice. Policy Press.

• Field, J., & Spence, L. (2020). Intergenerational Learning in Adult Education: Challenges and Opportunities. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 39(1), 1-18.

• Findsen, B., & Formosa, M. (2011). Intergenerational Learning in Families: A Lifelong Perspective. Routledge.

• Findsen, B., Formosa, M., & Kastenholz, H. (2015). Intergenerational Learning and Social Capital: A Framework for Analysing Learning Processes in Families. International Review of Education, 61(3), 323-342.

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• Holford, J., Robinson-Pant, A., & Jarvis, P. (2018). Lifelong Learning and Social Justice. Policy Press.

• Hofman, J., & Macht, A. (2017). Intergenerational Learning in Higher Education: Towards a More Reflexive Approach. European Journal of Education, 52(2), 157-168.

• Jarvis, P., & Griffin, C. (2016). Adult Education and Lifelong Learning: Theory and Practice. Routledge.

• Sandlin, J., & Clark, J. (2019). Intergenerational Learning in Higher Education: Towards a Theory of Youth and Adult Relations. Higher Education Research & Development, 38(1), 94-106.

• Tisdell, E. (2012). Intergenerational Learning and Transformative Leadership for Sustainable Futures. Routledge.

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