Third Age targets to end myth of the poor old dears

Your leader, "Neglected and patronised" (THES, May 12), helpfully draws attention to the importance for older people of adult education, and especially of the non-certificated provision which is currently under threat. Two years ago the Carnegie Inquiry into the Third Age examined a wide range of policy areas in relation to older people.These included education and training, on which Anne Marie Bostyn and I wrote the report.

The key themes identified were:

* clear policy statements in relation to older learners, by government, employers and institutions

* definite targets for provision

* appropriate resourcing, especially at local level

* guidance and information

* consultation with older people and their organisations.

One of theinquiry's overall conclusions was the danger of increasing polarisation, within the Third Age as well as between older poeple and the rest of society. This has become more salient even in the short time since its conclusions were published.

Another was for the contributions to our economic and cultural life made by Third Agers to be more fully recognised, formally and informally. The inquiry's wide-ranging recommendations should continue to be discussed, and would form a useful start for any negotiations aimed at getting institutions to take their responsibilities seriously, as you suggest.

The Carnegie Inquiry is based at 3 Robert St, London WC2.

TOM SCHULLER

Centre for Continuing Education

University of Edinburgh

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