First Advisor

David Capuzzi

Term of Graduation

Spring 2006

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Special and Counselor Education


Educational Leadership




Congregate housing -- Oregon -- Washington County, Longevity -- Oregon -- Washington County, Older people -- Long-term care -- Oregon -- Washington County



Physical Description

1 online resource (251 pages)


While multiple learning opportunities exist as the aging experience unfolds, elders facing some of the most complex physical and emotional challenges are often perceived as "too old to learn." For those living in long-term care facilities (LTC), lack of consideration as learners hinders numerous opportunities for growth. However, within the contexts of aging and learning, an attempt to understand elders as becoming and conceptualize them as learners might better serve their experience in long-term care.

The purpose of this study was to record notions about learning by capturing individual voices and shared meanings of a group of assisted living facility (ALF) residents as they considered what learning means to them. Participants in this study were 11 residents of a suburban assisted living community in Washington County, Oregon. All participants were at least 70 years of age. This 8-month qualitative field study compiled data gathered through utilization of participatory and naturalistic observation, one-to-one interviews, and a focus group.

Six Categories of Inquiry were used to frame the exploration: What is Learning? How are you a learner? How does aging influence learning? How does your health influence your learning? How does living in this ALF influence your learning? and What choices and access do you have to learn? Data analysis included direct transcription of resident comments during ongoing collaboration as standalone narratives; immersion of researcher into transcriptions and field observation notes to allow for new themes to naturally emerge; open coding of word and phrase usage to reduce, integrate, and synthesize themes as they related to the categories of inquiry; and a focus group session for dialogic reflection.

The salient feature of an internal tension between feeling both unfinished and having potential was expressed. Within this tension, key elements associated with learning and living in an ALF were found to be that: learning has many meanings including growth, change, hand-work, and artistic expression; respondents described themselves as lifelong learners regardless of physical or emotional challenges; and rather than aging itself, age-related sensory changes and impairments have a profound impact on learning.


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