An Examination of the Perceived Educational Needs of Residents in Continuing Care Retirement Communities


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Virginia Tech


As the mean age of the population continues to rise, increasing attention is being given to how and where the elderly will live. Since health of this age group varies considerably, living arrangements which offer a full spectrum of services and attend to a continuum of needs have arisen over the past few decades. Called Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), these places offer three levels of living: individual apartments, assisted living and the nursing center. Residents can move freely among these three levels as the need arises.

While the educational needs of the elderly have been discussed theoretically and explored in a variety of practical contexts, no research to the author's knowledge has investigated the context of CCRCs and the population within. This study filled that gap in the literature. Framed by the seminal research of McClusky which identified five categories of educational needs of the elderly (coping, expressive, contributing, influencing and transcending), the purpose of this study was to investigate the educational needs of the residents as perceived by residents and to determine if selected demographic variables differentiated among responses; a corollary aim was to learn more about the residents' learning formats used, and current satisfaction as well as future interest in educational activities.

Results of a questionnaire distributed to residents of two not-for-profit CCRCs in northern Virginia served as a data base, with a response rate of 68% for residents. The questionnaire, designed by the researcher, was validated through multiple iterations by content and process experts and piloted with a CCRC not in the study. Data were appropriately coded and analyzed using SPSS. Confidentiality of the respondents was maintained at all times.

The results indicated that residents were highly educated, financially secure, and in good health. Ages range from 67 to 100 years old. Both current participation as well as future interest in educational activities was high, but only a few demographic variables seemed to differentiate responses. Educational activities dealing with coping and transcending needs seemed to take priority, involvement in self-directed learning activities was high, and when involved in programmatically organized and structured activities, the format of small groups preferred. These findings could be significant for any practical intervention implication. Implication for future research include inquiry into this growing special population; for example, the why and how of their self-directed learning projects.



McClusky, Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Educational Needs