AccScience Publishing / IJPS / Volume 9 / Issue 3 / DOI: 10.36922/ijps.339
Cite this article
Journal Browser
Volume | Year
News and Announcements
View All

The right to lifelong learning: Addressing policy challenges for late-life learning in Canada

Satya Brink1*
Show Less
1 ENCELL, Jönköping University, Jönköping, Sweden
IJPS 2023, 9(3), 33–44;
Submitted: 3 September 2022 | Accepted: 16 May 2023 | Published: 9 June 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Active Ageing and Educational Gerontology)
© 2023 by the Author(s). This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution -Noncommercial 4.0 International License (CC-by the license) ( )

Lifelong learning is essential to support optimum development, cope with life challenges, improve healthy autonomy and contribute to a just, sustainable, and prosperous society. The value of the legal right to lifelong learning is not well understood, tested, or applied, as lifelong learning is rarely extended to all people till the end of life. Education or learning was formally accepted as a human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Together with UNESCO Recommendation against Discrimination in Education (1960), these two international agreements ensure access, relevance, and equity of lifelong learning. Possible reasons for low compliance and slow implementation of lifelong learning to the end of life are discussed. Canada’s efforts can serve as a model for lifelong learning policies for later life because, as a federated country, it requires national and provincial laws to work together to achieve the same desired outcome for lifelong learning across thirteen different provinces and territories. Furthermore, for the first time, the 2021 Canadian census provided detailed data for the population aged 65–100 years, and it supports evidence-based policy development regarding for whom, when, what, when, where, and how lifelong learning outcomes can be provided nationally. A combination of need and capacity is a better measure than determining eligibility by age 65–100 years, and the quality of learning should be based on responsiveness to specific needs and its relevance to learners in the last four decades of life. The needs for knowledge range from life management, personal growth, societal contributions, and legacy for the future. Learning options should be continuous, encourage individual choice, and rely on geragogy. To be equitable, learning in later life should be delivered in formal, non-formal, or informal means in residential and institutional settings.

Late-life learning
Human rights
Disaggregated data
National policy

AARP Research. (2022). Lifelong Learning among 45+Adults. Washington, D.C.: AARP National Office. Availble from: doi.10.26419-2Fres.00526.001.pdf [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Bjursell, C., Nystedt, P., Björklund, A., & Sternäng, O. (2017). Education level explains participation in work and education later in life. Educational Gerontology, 43(10): 511-521.


Boulton-Lewis, G.M. (2010). Education and learning for the elderly: Why, how, what. Educational Gerontology, 36(3): 213-228.


Brink, S. (2021). Lifelong Learning in Later Life: Active Aging Through Learning. EPALE Open Education Resource Blog. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Brink, S. (2023). The Longevity Dividend: Later Life, Lifelong Learning and Productive Societies. Berlin: Springer.


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (2022). COVID-19 Blamed for Greatest Drop in Life Expectancy in Canada Since 1921. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jan 24].


Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s 7, Part 1 of the Constitution Act. (1982). Being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK) c 11.


Coalition to Strengthen the Rights of Older People. Strengthening Older Persons Rights: Towards a UN Convention. Availble from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC). (2018). Quality Education for All: Canadian Report for the UNESCO Ninth Consultation of Member States on the Implementation of the Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education. Toronto, Canada: CMEC.


Fallon, C.K., & Karlawish, J. (2019). Is the WHO definition of health aging well? Frameworks for “Health” after three score and ten. American Journal of Public Health, 109(8): 1104- 1106.


Findson, B., & Formosa, M. (eds.). (2011). Formal and third age learning. In: Lifelong Learning in Later Life: A Handbook on Older Adult Learning. Rotterdam: Sense Publisher, p. 131-143.


Formosa, M. (2019). Universities of the third age. In: Gu, D., & Dupre, M.E. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging. Cham: Springer.


Hahmann, T. (2018). Volunteering Counts: Formal and Informal Contributions of Canadians in 2018. Report 75-006-X. Canada: Statistics Canada. Available from: htm [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Munro, D. (2019). Skills, Training and Lifelong Learning. Canada: Public Policy Forum.


OECD. (2011). Pensions at a Glance 2011: Retirement Income Systems in OECD and G20 Countries. Washington, D.C.: OECD Publishing. https:/doi/10.1787/pensions_glance- 2011-en


Schaie, K.W., & Willis, S.L. (2010). The Seattle longitudinal study of adult cognitive development. ISSBD. Bull 2010;57:24-9.


Schuller, T., & Watson, D. (2009). NIACE Adult Participation in Learning Survey, 2009. United Kingdom: NIACE.


Statistics Canada. (2017). Life in the Fast Lane: How are Canadians Managing? 2016 The Daily. Available from: htm [Last accessed on 2017 Nov 24].


Statistics Canada. (2021a). Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Statistics Canada. (2021b). Distribution of Population by Age Group and Census Metropolitan Area, Canada. Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 July 01].


Statistics Canada. (2021c). Demographic Estimates by Age and Sex, Provinces and Territories. Available from: https:// eng.htm [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Statistics Canada. (2022a). A Portrait of Canada’s Growing Population Aged 85 and Older from the 2021 Census. Available from: [Last accessed on 2022 Apr 27].


Statistics Canada. (2022b). Deaths 2020: The Daily. Canada: Statistics Canada. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Statistics Canada. (2022c). Table: 17-10-0005-01 (Formerly CANSIM 051-0001). Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Statistics Canada. (2022d). Age (in Single Years). Age and Median Age and Gender: Canada, Provinces and Territories, Census Divisions and Census Subdivisions. Available from: tv.action?pid=9810002201 [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Statistics Canada. (2023). Older Adults and Population Aging: Statistics. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


Stepler, R. (2016). World’s Centenarian Population Projected to Grow Eightfold by 2050. Pew Research Center. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


UNESCO. What You Need to Know about the Right to Education. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


UNESCO. (2015). SDG4-Education 2030, Incheon Declaration (ID). and Framework for Action. For the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4, Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Lifelong Learning Opportunities for All, ED-2016/WS/28. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 06].


United Nations Population Fund. (2005). Human Rights Principles. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Geneva: United Nations.


United Nations. (1999). Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Preliminary Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Ms. Katarina Tomasevski, Submitted in Accordance with Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1998/33 (E/CN.4/1999/49). Switzerland: Economic and Social Council. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].


United Nations. (2015). Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A/ RES/70/1. New York, NY: United Nations. Available from: Development%20web.pdf [Last accessed on 2023 Jun 02].

Conflict of interest
The author declares that she has no competing interests.
Back to top
International Journal of Population Studies, Electronic ISSN: 2424-8606 Print ISSN: 2424-8150, Published by AccScience Publishing