Funding for Geragogy


Hello Health Literacy Colleagues,

You may or, as in my case, may not know that Geragogy "involves the principles of older adult learning theory. Factors affecting learning can be physical functions such as vision, hearing, and mobility.11,12"  

From this article, "Health Literacy and the Older Adult" in the Clinical Advisor, I learned many things, including:

  • "The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported that low health literacy is associated with more emergency department visits and hospital re-admissions, less preventive care, and poor medication administration skills.8  Older adults with poor health literacy were found to have overall poorer health status and higher mortality than those who possessed adequate health literacy skills.8  In addition to poor patient outcomes, low health literacy is a financial burden on our healthcare system with costs reaching to $92 billion annually in the United States.9  A Veterans Health Administration study indicated that low health literacy was a significant factor in higher healthcare costs.10  Hitting closer to home, many payers are penalizing healthcare practitioners who have poor patient outcomes."
  • There are teaching principles for Geragogy:

    "Older Adult Learning Theory

    Before we can address best practices to overcome low health literacy, we need to understand how older adults learn and factors that could impede older adult learning.  Geragogy involves the principles of older adult learning theory. Factors affecting learning can be physical functions such as vision, hearing, and mobility.11,12  Increasing age can be associated with a decrease in vision and hearing, as well as slower psychomotor abilities.  Adjustments in teaching will need to be made when educating these patients. Cognitive factors need to be considered.  Older adults may have decreased short-term memory and a tendency to be distracted.11 Repetition is a key element in teaching the older adult."

    The following principles of older adult learning were identified:

    • “Approach the older adult in a way that communicates respect, acceptance, and support.  Create a learning environment in which the patient can feel comfortable when expressing what is and is not understood.”
    • “Schedule teaching session in mid-morning when energy levels are usually highest for the older adult. Conduct several brief sessions over different days rather than one long session, which may cause fatigue.”
    • “Provide more time for the older adult to process new information.”
    • “Link new knowledge to past experiences.  Reminiscing helps the older adult reconnect with lived experiences.”
    • “Keep the content practical and relevant to the older adult’s daily activities, social structure, and physical function.  Older adults tend to be more motivated when the information is perceived as a way to address a current problem.”
    • “Minimize distractions.”
    • “Speak slowly, but not so slowly that the patient becomes bored or distracted.”
    • “Use terminology that is familiar to the older adult.”
    • “Give older adults written material that reinforces the major points of teaching.  Use a large font.”
    • “Use visuals that portray older adults in a positive manner.”
    • “Encourage patients to keep written information easily accessible such as near a phone, bed table, or on the refrigerator.”
    • “Use concrete terms and avoid abstract terminology.”
    • “Encourage older adults to be actively involved in their teaching.”
    • “Encourage family members to actively participate in the educational sessions.”

I wonder if there is interest -- and funding available -- for adult basic skills (including ESOL/ESL) programs to collaborate with community health centers to offer short courses or study circles for older adults, at community health centers or in public libraries, that would help them acquire the health literacy skills they need.

Anyone know examples of this? Anyone know of funding that might be available to support these short health literacy courses?

David J. Rosen