Why do senior adults attend the various ministries and activities offered by our churches? Some say fellowship with other Christians deepens their relationships with Christian brothers and sisters. Others come for worship, because it provides opportunities to bring honor and glory to our Lord. Still others seek training because it gives the know-how to do the work of the church and fulfill their Christ-given mission in life.
Many senior adults come to Bible studies because a Christian needs to learn from God’s Word and know what he or she believes and why. Therefore, study opportunities provide many personal and group benefits for senior adults. When you consider senior adults in a training or study experience, consider more than simply the topic. Be aware of specific learning principles and how they apply to senior learners.
They react in positive ways when you meet their needs. Participants in a learning group seek content that leads to positive change in their lives and help for dealing with issues they might face.
They have a greater desire to learn when they understand the benefits of learning. A good salesperson tells a customer the benefits of a certain product to get the person to buy.
They learn better when learning experiences reflect appropriate use of teaching methods. “Different strokes for different folks” is a contemporary way of saying no one learning method appeals to or works well for all learners.
They better retain what they have learned when the learning experience is exciting and lively. Whether using a case study, a role-play situation or a buzz group, senior adult participants will respond in positive ways if there is some excitement in the presentation.
They learn about their world through their physical senses. God has blessed us with five physical senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Through these senses we learn about the world around us.
They learn better through repetition. Like the rest of us, the more often we repeat an act, the more quickly we develop a habit. A skill develops more rapidly as an individual practices that skill.
They learn better under pleasant and satisfying circumstances. When good experiences occur in the group setting, senior adults often want those experiences to happen again.
They may prefer shorter learning sessions. A senior adult typically will listen intently for about 20 minutes at a time. If a normal learning session is one hour in length, then changes in the methods used and the pace of learning are vital. Otherwise a lot of important content could be missed. Divide a long period into shorter segments to help keep learners interested.
Knowing and applying these basic principles of learning will enable leaders to plan meaningful learning periods. Whether through Sunday morning Bible study, personal or group discipleship study groups or other teaching-learning activities, senior adults want to grow spiritually and intellectually.