Taylor, Louise; Kingston, Paul
University of Chester, United Kingdom
Current demographics within the United Kingdom present a challenging picture, with older people forming a considerable proportion of the population. In particular, older people are spending a longer period outside paid work at a point in the life course constructed as retirement. Increasingly, some older adults are returning to learning as a means of remaining socially connected. Research which seeks to understand the relevance and importance of learning in later life remains quite disparate and, in addition, there is a lack of longitudinal or biographical research which seeks to explore this phenomenon. This research provides new insights into later-life learning exploring how retired older people narrate their experiences of learning, and the interrelationship of this experience to life course capital. Data were collected from eight participants aged between 63 and 73. An experience-centred narrative method was employed to explore participant biography with a particular emphasis upon learning. Data were analysed. The narrative data revealed that each participant had accumulated capital over their life course: at the point of retirement they were able to successfully deploy this capital as a means to gain new social connections through their return to learning. Learning for pleasure in later life is a mechanism to enhance retirement through the promotion of activity and engagement and consequently improve physical and mental health and well being.