Cognitive growth rather than decline: examining highly educated, third age women’s learning

Anat Zohar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study is to examine what learning capabilities and ways of learning may be possible for women in their third age. The study addresses cognitive aspects of real-life learning of older women who are experienced learners. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 women aged between 60 and 81 who hold either a PhD or a MA. Despite reports of memory decline, the findings show that the interviewees perceive their current learning not only as not showing decline, but rather as of a better quality than the learning they had experienced in previous periods. Examples of the features used to describe the current quality of learning include: (a) improved learning strategies; (b) connecting prior conceptual knowledge to new learning processes as a way of making meaning and interpreting new knowledge; and, (c) the outcome of the learning processes is deep knowledge and understanding that may be applied for achieving practical goals. The findings show that in learning that is geared towards real-life needs and goals, the older women who participated in this study adopt active, deep learning, leading to generative knowledge. The implications of these findings for the pedagogies used in educational institutions for older adults are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)342-360
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Lifelong Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Learning
  • older people’s ways of learning
  • third age women


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