Academic journal article Family Relations

Factors Influencing Midlife and Older Adults' Attendance in Family Life Education Programs*

Academic journal article Family Relations

Factors Influencing Midlife and Older Adults' Attendance in Family Life Education Programs*

Article excerpt


This study explored the likelihood of midlife and older adults attending a family life education program by assessing learner characteristics and deterrents to and motivators of attendance. Data were collected through a survey mailed to a stratified sample of adults aged 50 and over. Discriminant analysis results based on survey responses from 264 participants suggest that younger individuals with strong religious beliefs, low personal and programmatic deterrents, and high levels of motivation were most likely to indicate future program attendance. Implications for family life education are discussed.

Key Words: evaluation strategies, family life education, older adults, participation rates, program attendance, training and development.

Despite the common knowledge that America is aging, limited attention has been given to the development and marketing of family life education for midlife and older adults (Arcus, 1993). Family life education is generally defined as education that strengthens and enriches individuals and families (Arcus, 1993). With regard to older adults, shifting family roles, caregiving, retirement planning, and maintaining independence in aging are just a few topics that could be addressed in family life education programs. However, the question remains whether midlife and older adults will attend and participate in family life education programs, even if the programs are designed to meet their needs. Securing program participants in midlife and older adulthood presents unique challenges given the diversity of their physical, socioemotional, and mental needs, caregiving responsibilities, sociodemographic characteristics, motivation for learning, and access to transportation (Casper & Bianchi, 2002).

The literature on program attendance identifies four interrelated areas that seem to influence family life education program attendance for older adults: (a) needs of the learner (Arcus, Schvaneveldt, & Moss, 1993; Londoner, 1990), (b) characteristics of the learner (Abraham, 1998; Peterson, 1983; Walker, Bisbee, Porter, & Flanders, 2004; Williamson, 2000), (c) deterrents (Abraham, 1998; Borthwick, 1983; Darkenwald & Valentine, 1985; Scala, 1996), and (d) motivators (Peterson, 1983).

The purpose of this study is to examine these interrelated areas and their ability to predict older adults' intentions to attend family life education programs. Previous studies indicated that the intention to participate explains actual participation (Tikkanen, 1998). The link between intentions and participation is further supported by the theory of reasoned action, which suggests that behavior is determined by the intention to perform that behavior (Tikkanen, 1998). Consequently, we focus on intentions as an indicator of subsequent participation. Specifically, this study addresses the following research objectives: (a) to determine the deterrents to and motivators of program attendance that midlife and older adults experience and make comparisons of these deterrents and motivators by gender and age group and (b) to determine the ability of a set of predictors to discriminate between adults who are very likely, somewhat likely, and not likely to attend a future family life education program.

Review of Literature

Educational gerontology refers to aspects of learning for older adults and is becoming a well-known subcategory of gerontology (Findsen, 2002; Glendenning, 2001). Family life educators inform educational gerontologists via educational and programming skills and, more importantly, by a strong curricular emphasis on family issues. In turn, the field of educational gerontology informs family life educators about the learning needs and instructional strategies that are effective for older adults. It is important for educators in both fields to communicate and have solid information about the attendance patterns of midlife and older adults in family life education programs. …

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