Transitions, generations andinformal learning in later life


  • John Field



The nature of transitions across the lifecourse is changing, as are the ways in which these transitions are understoodand investigated by social scientists. Much earlier debate on older adults’ transitions has tended to be rooted in acco-unts of relatively fixed social roles and age-based social stages. However, while we can detect some tendencies towardsdestandardization and restandardization of the lifecourse in later life, we can also see significant continuities in theinfluences of socio-economic position, gender, and ethnicity, as well as of generational position, that continue to affectpeople’s life chances, as well as the expectations and experiences of transition of older people. The paper examines theinterplay of these complex and contradictory structural positions and cultural locations on transitions, and considersthe ways in which older people use and understand learning, formally and informally, as a way of exercising agencyand recreating meaning. It will draw on recent research into the life histories of adults in Scotland, a relatively smallcountry with a typically European pattern of demographic change. The study was concerned with agency, identity,change and learning across the life course, and this paper will concentrate on the evidence relating to experiences oftransition in later life. It will particularly focus on the idea of ‘educational generations’ as a key concept that helps usunderstand how adults use and interpret learning in later life.


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7. 12. 2012



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Transitions, generations andinformal learning in later life. (2012). Andragoška Spoznanja, 18(4), 29-36.