Jane Fraser

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Cunningham, Phyllis M.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Voluntarism--Ontario; Older people--Ontario--Psychology


Older adult learners participated in a volunteerism study to examine the learning and social purposes of urban and rural citizens enrolled in urban and rural adult education classes. The older adults were subjects of their own study, rather than objects studied by researchers. Their data revealed knowledge of the mesostructure of society in the family role and volunteerism. Fourteen phenomenological interviews were conducted and analyzed utilizing the constant comparative method. Researcher reflections were included in the qualitative analysis. Emergent themes included the meaning of volunteerism for the individual with subthemes of continuity of the individual self and affiliation with a volunteer community. Subthemes of generativity included passing talents and skills to the next generation, volunteering in the family role, and preserving the quality of life for future generations. Subthemes for older adult lifelong learning included learning-oriented personalities, learning as living, purpose-oriented learning, learning focused on local communities, heterogeneity of older adult learners, application of learning to volunteerism, and description of volunteering as learning. Survey data were collected from 60 urban volunteers, 30 urban administrators, 30 rural volunteers, and 30 rural administrators. Survey respondents reported numerous similarities, such as motivation, commitment, and the benefit of acquiring a good feeling from volunteerism. They also felt that they were giving back to society. Urban and rural volunteers demonstrated informal volunteerism in their family roles. Rural older volunteers reported a mutual return from their volunteer surveys. Implications for adult education included the transfer of adult education pedagogical skills to older adult education, recognition of age-specific learning needs, extension of time for acquiring new knowledge and skills, and development of age-segregated programs. Further research utilizing the phenomenology method and focusing on the family, workplace, and volunteer site will improve policy for older adult community-based education and volunteerism.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [163]-166).


xxiii, 177 pages




Northern Illinois University

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