Research

Housed in the ASU Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, OLLI at ASU engages in research pertaining to lifelong learning, adult education, and community building. We take pride in that our work is both research-inspired and research-inspiring.

 

Publications

Assessments of Popular Topics Using Enrollment Data and Course Catalog Information

Captivating Lifelong Learners in the Third Age:  Lessons Learned from a University-Based Institute
(2015)

Talmage, C. A., Pstross, M., Knopf, R. C., Lacher, R. G., & Burkhart, K. (2015). Captivating Lifelong Learners in the Third Age:  Lessons Learned from a University-Based Institute. Adult Education Quarterly, 65 (3), 232–249.

The prevalence of learning providers for third agers continues to expand alongside the growth of the older adult population, yet there remains little empirical evidence on what types of learning experiences are most desired by lifelong learners. This article examines the effects that different learning topics have on attendance at classes hosted by a university-based lifelong learning institute, asking, Which learning topics draw enrollment in a lifelong learning program? Registration data were collected from 7,332 attendees of 290 learning experiences held over four semesters; class topics were coded and analyzed using a multivariate regression procedure. Results indicate that lifelong learners are more interested in classes concerning global issues, religion/philosophy, and social issues focusing on particular groups and individuals. The results remain significant after accounting for structural arrangements such as class time, day of the week, number of sessions, and location. Implications for enhancing lifelong learning experiences and programs are discussed.


Assessments of Age-Friendliness of Colleges and Universities

Age Friendly Universities and Engagement with Older People:  Moving from Principles to Practice (2016)

Talmage, C. A., Mark, R., Slowey, M., & Knopf, R. C. (2016). Age Friendly Universities and Engagement with Older People:  Moving from Principles to Practice. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 35 (5), 537-554.

Talmage, C. A., Mark, R., Slowey, M., & Knopf, R. C. (2018). Age Friendly Universities and Engagement with Older People:  Moving from Principles to Practice. In Findsen, B. (Ed.), Fresh Perspectives on Later Life Learning (pp. 65-82). New York, NY:  Routledge.(Reprint of Original Article).

The global society is facing a new burgeoning element: an ageing population. Response to the educational needs and interests of older adults requires innovative pedagogies and practices of teaching, research, and community engagement. While traditionally geared towards provision for younger adults, the case is presented that universities have the potential to play a major role in innovation for later life learning for older adults. This article outlines one approach, the Age Friendly University (AFU) and highlights 10 principles that offer a possible guide for innovation and institutional change. The integration of AFU’s mission and principles into three universities is reflected in stories from three university cases in Ireland, the UK (Scotland) and the USA exploring potential merits and also major challenges. It is argued the AFU has the potential to bring social, personal and economic benefits to older adults and universities alike.

 

Assessments of Intergenerational and Service-Learning Programs and Partnerships

The Benefits of Intergenerational Learning in Higher Education: Lessons from the International Age Friendly University Movement (2016)

Pstross, M., Corrigan, T., Knopf, R. C., Sung, H., Talmage, C. A., Conroy, C., & Fowley, C., (2016). The Benefits of Intergenerational Learning in Higher Education:  Lessons from the International Age Friendly University Movement. Innovative Higher Education, 42 (2), 157-171.

This article focuses on the role of universities in the promotion of intergenerational learning and the facilitation of reciprocal sharing of expertise among learners of all ages. The principles of the Age Friendly University are used as a particular lens for interpreting two university programs, one in the United States and one in Ireland. Though different in operational implementation, core commonalities emerged within the nature of benefits to younger learners, older learners, the university, and the community. A review of these benefits illustrates how universities can provide opportunities for older and younger learners to co-create experiences and mutually enrich each other’s lives.

 

Assessments of Social and Cognitive Transformation, Values, and Well-Being

In search of transformative moments: Blending community building pursuits into lifelong learning experiences (2017)

Pstross, M., Peterson, C. B., Talmage, C. A., & Knopf, R. C. (2017). In Search of Transformative Moments: Blending Community Building Pursuits into Lifelong Learning Experiences. Journal of Education, Culture and Society, 2017(1), 62-78.

This article presents an exploration of the relationship between community building and lifelong learning. Using a reflective style, the authors propose that the fusion of community building principles with lifelong learning practice can positively transform educational practice. Seven positive pursuits are highlighted regarding their potential to assist the implementation of community building into lifelong learning programs: (1) asset-based thinking; (2) critical reflection; (3) systems thinking; (4) cognitive vibrancy, (5) inclusiveness; (6) creative expression; and, (7) purpose in life. These pursuits draw upon the power of the community development field to bring about more positive transformative moments for individuals and communities participating in lifelong learning programs. The metaphor of bread making is used to illustrate how such transformative moments occur and why they are meaningful to individuals pursuing lifelong learning.

The Social and Cognitive Transformation of Older Adult Women: An Analysis of Community Well-Being for a University-Based Lifelong Learning Community (2018)

Talmage, C. A., Ross, A., Searle, M., & Knopf, R. C., (2018). The Social and Cognitive Transformation of Older Adult Women: An Analysis of Community Well-Being for a University-Based Lifelong Learning Community. International Journal of Community Well-Being, 1(1), 11-31.

Lifelong learning is a social and cognitive process that helps individuals build on their knowledge, skills, and abilities throughout their lives. This process is transformational for older adults. This study examines the social and cognitive transformation of older adult women involved in a large lifelong learning institute in the United States. Sense of community and gerotranscendence are used as measures of social and cognitive transformation, respectively. The relationships of these concepts with life satisfaction and quality of life are quantitatively and qualitatively investigated. Findings indicate that sense of community positively relates to life satisfaction and quality of life, while gerotranscendence only relates to life satisfaction. The qualitative findings support these connections as well as demonstrate the transformative effects of lifelong learning. This study concludes that a social and cognitive perspective on transformation will be beneficial to future investigations of life satisfaction, quality of life, and other measures of individual and community well-being.

Wisdom and Curiosity Among Older Learners: Elucidating Themes of Well-Being from Beautiful Questions in Older Adulthood (2018)

Talmage, C. A., & Knopf, R. C. (2018). Wisdom and Curiosity Among Older Learners: Elucidating Themes of Well-Being from Beautiful Questions in Older Adulthood. OBM Geriatrics, 2(4), 025.

Background: Wisdom and curiosity require greater attention in the lifelong learning literature pertaining to older adulthood. Lifelong learning can assist older adults in amalgamating wisdom and pursuing their curiosities, but how wisdom is amalgamated and how curiosity is pursued in older adulthood needs more exploration. Methods: This qualitative study investigates subthemes of wisdom amalgamation and curiosity pursuits elucidated from interviews of older adults who participated in a university-based lifelong learning institute. Specifically, older adults were asked to share their big and beautiful questions with the interviewer in order to develop thick descriptions for analysis. Results: This study highlights nine subthemes of wisdom amalgamation and nine subthemes of curiosity pursuits that can be linked to lifelong learning. Openness, asking questions, and making wise decisions were deemed top subthemes for wisdom amalgamation. Learning about topics, finding purpose and meaning, and asking small and big questions were showcased as top subthemes of curiosity pursuits. Conclusions: This study provides the groundwork for utilizing big and beautiful questions as a research method to explore wisdom and curiosity. The study also highlights salient themes of wisdom and curiosity present in older adulthood, which may tie to overall well-being and quality of life.

Unleashing the Value of Lifelong Learning Institutes: Research and Practice Insights from a National Survey of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (in press)

Talmage, C. A., Hansen, R. J., Knopf, R. C., Thaxton, S. P., McTague, R., & Moore, D. B. (in press). Unleashing the Value of Lifelong Learning Institutes: Research and Practice Insights from a National Survey of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. Adult Education Quarterly.

Lifelong learning as a field has leapt forward, but work remains to inform the structuring and practice of lifelong learning institutes. This study furthers the field of institution- based lifelong learning by utilizing cross-institutional research regarding the value of lifelong learning to older adults. A content analysis coding approach is undertaken to categorize and organize 4,400 lifelong learners’ responses to the question: “What about your Osher Institute has been valuable/important to you?” Responses came from 12 institutes across the United States. The organization and interpretation of the themes fell along four dimensions: (1) learning experience; (2) community environment; (3) learning quality; and, (4) learning access. Subthemes within each of the four broad themes are identified and discussed. Slight demographic differences regarding codes assigned are highlighted. Institutional differences were more notable demonstrating that the structures and practices of institutes warrant more research.

Social Leisure Activity, Physical Activity, and Valuation of Life: Findings from a Longevity Study (in press)

Talmage, C. A., Coon, D. W., Dugger, B. N., Knopf, R. C., O’Connor, K. A., & Schoffield, S. A. (in press). Social Leisure Activity, Physical Activity, and Valuation of Life:  Findings from a Longevity Study. Activities, Adaptation, and Aging.

The relationships between social and physical activities in older adulthood deserve further attention. This study explores the relationship of social leisure activity (SLA) and the psychological construct, valuation of life (VOL), to physical activity among the young, middle, and oldest old. Significant differences and relationships were observed. Oldest old showed significant drops in ability and activity, both physical and leisure activity. VOL is connected to SLA and physical activities specific to improving flexibility. The study findings suggest SLA and VOL are important points of leverage for helping older adults forestall decreases in physical activity, especially for the oldest old.

Linking Vibrancy, Purpose, and Community to Engagement in Older Adulthood:  Unlocking the Wisdom of Lifelong Learners (in development)

Talmage, C. A., Flood, G., & Knopf, R. C. (in development). Linking Vibrancy, Purpose, and Community to Engagement in Older Adulthood: Unlocking the Wisdom of Lifelong Learners.

This article is under development, but it will speak to the transformative power of lifelong learning.

Assessments of Demographics, Diversity, Inclusion, and Inclusiveness

Rethinking Diversity, Inclusion, and Inclusiveness: The Quest to Better Understand Indicators of Community Enrichment and Wellbeing (2017)

Talmage, C. A. & Knopf, R. (2017). Rethinking Diversity, Inclusion, and Inclusiveness: The Quest to Better Understand Indicators of Community Enrichment and Wellbeing. In Kraeger, P., Cloutier, S., & Talmage, C. A. (Eds.), New Dimensions in Community Well-Being (pp. 7-28).  London and NY: Springer Publications.

Communities thrive on diversity in the long-run. Our communities are filled with diverse individuals and diverse groups of residents who, though they share a common place, may not experience their communities exactly the same as their fellow residents. Broad strokes are needed in our quests to better understand diversity, inclusion, and inclusiveness indicators in our communities. These three concepts are the building-blocks to high levels of community well-being. This chapter synthesizes recent conceptualizations and research on these three concepts. Diversity is described as a community resource. Inclusion is highlighted as a community process, and inclusiveness is described as a community outcome. Three tools are proposed to leverage these building-blocks to increase community well-being. The three tools are policy, development, and enrichment in communities. This chapter proposes that community policy is best suited to address changes regarding indicators of diversity. Community development is best suited for inclusion, and community enrichment is best concentrated on inclusiveness.

Barriers to Age-Friendly Universities: Lessons from Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Demographics and Perceptions (2019)

Hansen, R. J., Talmage, C. A., Thaxton, S. P., & Knopf, R. C. (2019). Barriers to Age-Friendly Universities:  Lessons from Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Demographics and Perceptions. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education.  

The age-friendliness of universities and colleges is a growing area of research and practice. This study focuses on lifelong learning institutes at universities and colleges who provide courses and experiences for older adults but do not award academic or work-related credentials. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) network in the U.S. is used as an exemplary case of institutes that aim to increase the age-friendliness of their supporting institutions, whilst also aiming for greater diversity among their learners. This study draws upon literature regarding OLLIs and Age-Friendly Universities (AFUs) and national demographic surveys of OLLI student members in 2014 and 2016 (n=  5,500). The study highlights the 2016 demographic characteristics of OLLI learners, notes changes since 2014, and makes comparisons to national trends. Furthermore, this study investigates the barriers to participation identified by older learners participating in OLLIs, considered in light of studies that have addressed such obstacles for underrepresented groups.

 

Assessments of Access and Barriers to Learning and Social Connectedness

Enhancing Older Adult Access to Lifelong Learning Institutes Through Technology-Based Instruction:  A Research Commentary (2019)

Hansen, R. J., Talmage, C. A., Thaxton, S. P., & Knopf, R. C. (under review). Enhancing Older Adult Access to Lifelong Learning Institutes Through Technology-Based Instruction:  A Research Commentary. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education. 

The number of lifelong learning institutes serving older adults in the U.S. has increased in the last few decades. To date, these institutes have functioned primarily in traditional, in-person classroom, and seminar formats; however, technology-enhanced methods may help provide greater access to high-quality lifelong learning experiences. This research note reports the results of a cross-institutional survey of Osher Lifelong Learning Network participants. The survey participants’ high levels of computer utilization and experience with modern distance education capabilities opens the possibility that Technology-Based Instruction (TBI) can augment or supplement in-person lifelong learning experiences. Specifically, TBI may be effective in expanding access for older adults who have mobility or other health limitations, as well as those who live far from the location of any such program. Example approaches are suggested for developing blended, hybrid in-person, and online lifelong learning environments, which may offer enriching intellectual engagement and meaningful socialization.

Decreasing Loneliness and Social Disconnectedness Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults: The Potential for ICT Use and Ride-Hailing/Sharing Services (in development)

Talmage, C. A., Knopf, R. C., Wu, T., Winkel, D., Fu, Y., & Xu, Y. (in development, accepted for conference presentation). Decreasing Loneliness and Social Disconnectedness Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults: The Potential for ICT Use and Ride-Hailing/Sharing Services.

This study is in development. This study explores self-reports of 241 older adults (aged 63-95) regarding loneliness and social disconnectedness, and the influence of information and communication technologies (ICT) use in mitigating these phenomena. The samples are drawn from four older adult living communities in Arizona.

 

Literature Reviews and Policy Papers on Lifelong Learning

Directions for 21st Century Lifelong Learning Institutes: Elucidating Questions from Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Studies (2018)

Talmage, C. A., Hansen, R. J., Knopf, R. C., & Thaxton, S. (2018). Directions for 21st Century Lifelong Learning Institutes: Elucidating Questions from Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Studies. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 64 (2), 109-125.

The literature regarding lifelong learning is robust, while the literature on lifelong learning institutions, centers, and programs remain under-researched in comparison. This article draws insights from a specific network of lifelong learning institutes with a rich history and high rapport in the United States: the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) network. Sixty articles regarding OLLIs are catalogued and highlighted to elucidate twelve thematic areas and twelve questions for future research and practice. In particular, these themes are related to adult education, healthy aging, and educational gerontology. The article concludes by reflecting on trends in and needs for institutional research and practice.

Learning Later: Responding to the evolving educational needs of older people (2018)

Mark, R., Talmage, C., & Knopf, R. (2018). Learning Later: responding to the evolving educational needs of older people. Pascal International Observatory (Briefing Paper 13).

The proportion of older people in many countries is increasing and will continue to play an important future role in policy. Policy debates focus on how to address the widespread needs of older adults, which include economic security, health, work, and leisure. We highlight the debate in the field of education, and focus on the emerging approaches and locales for responding to the learning needs of older adults if they are to receive appropriate responses through policy formation. We also emphasize the important role lifelong learning can serve in policies enacted across communities and societies.

 

Conference Posters and Presentations

Wu, T., Knopf, R. C., Talmage, C. A., Mirchandani, P., Candan, S., O’Neill, Z., Sazonov, E., Wen, J. (2018). Smart, Connected, Engaged Senior Communities. Smart Cities Conference. Kansas City, Missouri, March 26-29.

Talmage, C. A., Ross, A., Pstross, M., Searle, M., Knopf, R. C., & Wilson, K. (2017). The Social and Cognitive Empowerment of Older Adult Women: An Analysis of a University-Based Lifelong Learning Community. Community Development Society Conference. Big Sky, Montana, June 13.

Pstross, M., Peterson, C. B., Knopf, R. C, & Talmage, C. A. (2015). In search of transformative moments: Blending community building pursuits into lifelong learning experiences. Community Development Society Conference. Lexington, Kentucky, July 20.

Pstross, M., Sung, E., Mendoza, M., Talmage, C. A., & Knopf, R. C. (2014). Community Service Learning as a Path to Abundance: Lessons Learned from a Long-Term University-Community Partnership. Community Development Society Conference, Dubuque, Iowa, July 21.

Talmage, C. A., Pstross, M., & Knopf, R. C. (2013). Lifelong Learning in the Metro-City: What’s Trending in Education in the Third Age. Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities Conference, Louisville, Kentucky, Oct. 27.

Okvat, H. A., Okun, M. A., Davis, M. C., Zautra, A. J., & Knopf, R. C. (2012). A pilot study of the benefits of traditional and mindful community gardening for healthy aging among older adults. 12th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, Budapest, Hungary, Aug. 31.

 

Conferences with OLLI at ASU Research Presentations

Age-Friendly Universities Conference
Arizona Summit on Volunteerism and Service-Learning
Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities Conference
Community Development Society Conference
International Association for Community Development Conference
International Congress of Behavioral Medicine
Smart Cities Conference