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Old wine – New bottles

September 13, 2009

Speaking as one who sees herself as old wine, I’m hoping I’ve ripened well. Bottled in good new bottles, I intend to continue to ripe and reach my full potentials. For what can be better than a good old ripened wine, set before you in a solid crisp bottle, with an attractive and informative label?

So far for the metaphors —I already feel I’m stretching it. But this is how I like to look at the older learner. A vast track record of talents, knowledge, experience and insights. And if we can only manage to package this in good New Learning, wouldn’t this be of an immeasurable value? To all?

Look, sooner or later this recession will pass. And sooner or later the balance on the job market will be in favour of the well-trained employee. Having said this and understanding its implications, most educators are signalling a new target subgroup that’s up and coming. Like one reader commented on an earlier piece, Life is worth Learning, “…I think that this is a demographic whose time is nearly here…”

A three ways

The metaphor described earlier is naturally a three ways:

#1. It’s imperative that the older learner realises his potentials and all that he can do if he combines it with new learning.

#2. The employer needs to recognise the potentials of the older learner (read co-worker) as well; but even more so, the advantages. The employer should try to ‘bottle’ this as much as possible before it’s all lost in retirement.

#3. Then you have the educators as myself, whose task it is to help both parties above. Help and motivate the older learner in his mission to a new self with new learning. Clad him with the knowledge and skills he needs. Guide him in making the best of his potentials.

And, help the employer get what he needs. We ‘bottle’ the existing knowledge, experience and insights, in a manner that all can benefit from it: the employer, the new recruits and the older learner himself.

Role educators

It’s the basics when creating learning concepts that work: you deal with a target audience and their motivation to learn. Therefore, educators should take care to design and develop learning material that’s particularly directed at them. This means seriously taking all their specifics into account. The target audience is the starting point; determining What you make and How you make it.

So after accurately profiling the target audience, the educator tackles the next obstacle: the learner’s motivation. There are some methods available when going about doing this.

Appreciation. First of all, let’s be appreciative of his potentials; the knowledge, experience and insights he brings to the table. Generally, the older learner (you can also read co-worker) feels dismissed by his environment. This is highly demotivating.

We can start by breaking with this attitude and recognising the older learner. Show him his competencies still play an important role in the production process of the organisation. Show him he matters.

Tailor-made. Secondly, create tailor-made learning material the older learner can relate to. Mind you, this goes for all demographics, but is very essential when aiming to engage the older learner. Keep the interface clear, crisp and extremely user friendly. In addition, depending on the learning objectives, the content needs to be substancial.

Use web 2.0 tools that are in line with your learning objectives. There’s absolutely no need to ‘dazzle’ your target audience. It will just make them feel ignorant. With contra productive results. Therefore, be pragmatic in your approach.

Coaching. Thirdly and finally, coach the older learner. They need to know that when embarking on the new learning program, there’s someone there they can fall back on. Get them started, by first acknowledging them and creating good tailor-made learning content. Then offer the necessary guidance to support them in their learning process.

Another form of using the coaching method, involves the older learner himself. Couple him with a younger teammate for doing assignments. This is a (learning) method that gives double advantage.

The coaching reassures the older learner; gives him back a sense of self-worth that might have been lost with all the clichés around. Providing we direct them well, the interaction of ‘seasoned know-how’ and ‘youthful inquisitiveness’ can take both team players to a higher level. Exactly what we want.

The bottom line

The above is nothing but a plea to all ‘old wines’ like myself, to invest in their own personal learning. Understand your self-worth and be open and inquisitive. Make good use of the opportunities offered to you by your employer. Just think of how this can make you blossom…

Indirectly it’s also a plea to employers; please acknowledge the potentials that are right under your noses. Don’t put it off till it’s too late and let good knowledge, experience and insight, go to waste with retirement. Or worse yet a lay-off. Dare to be a (long term) visionary and effectively use what you’ve got.

Meanwhile we, the educators, play a double role in the whole. On one hand, we must do our utmost to develop good tailor-made learning programs for the older learner (read co-worker). Engage him, guide him. Be his fall-back. Be his support as he ripens into this full bodied good old wine.

On the other hand, we ‘bottle’ his knowledge, experience and insights. Transforming it into practical learning material for other prospective learners. In short: a learning strategy that benefits all parties.


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary Burns Prine permalink
    September 16, 2009 22:16

    Thanks for the well written reminder of the difference in techniques of instruction between older and younger learners. There is so much enthusiasm and experience in the older learner. You are especially right when you discuss coaching. Older adults may lack some prerequisite knowledge, and may need some individualized coaching to get back on track, and to keep them on track. Motivation is a key factor. Our instruction must make the learner want to return. Thanks again.


    • September 16, 2009 22:35

      Dear Mary,
      Let’s not forget whose comment it was, that triggered this piece in the first place.
      Greetings, Evita


  2. September 14, 2009 17:17

    There’s an old Mexican saying the more mature a chilli is, the hotter it is…!


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