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Age is no barrier: predictors of academic success in older learners


Imlach, A and Ward, DD and Stuart, KE and Summers, MJ and Valenzuela, MJ and King, AE and Saunders, NL and Summers, J and Srikanth, VK and Robinson, A and Vickers, JC, Age is no barrier: predictors of academic success in older learners, npj Science of Learning, 2 Article 13. ISSN 2056-7936 (2017) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

2017 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1038/s41539-017-0014-5


Although predictors of academic success have been identified in young adults, such predictors are unlikely to translate directly to an older student population, where such information is scarce. The current study aimed to examine cognitive, psychosocial, lifetime, and genetic predictors of university-level academic performance in older adults (5079 years old). Participants were mostly female (71%) and had a greater than high school education level (M = 14.06 years, SD = 2.76), on average. Two multiple linear regression analyses were conducted. The first examined all potential predictors of grade point average (GPA) in the subset of participants who had volunteered samples for genetic analysis (N = 181). Significant predictors of GPA were then re-examined in a second multiple linear regression using the full sample (N = 329). Our data show that the cognitive domains of episodic memory and language processing, in conjunction with midlife engagement in cognitively stimulating activities, have a role in predicting academic performance as measured by GPA in the first year of study. In contrast, it was determined that age, IQ, gender, working memory, psychosocial factors, and common brain gene polymorphisms linked to brain function, plasticity and degeneration (APOE, BDNF, COMT, KIBRA, SERT) did not influence academic performance. These findings demonstrate that ageing does not impede academic achievement, and that discrete cognitive skills as well as lifetime engagement in cognitively stimulating activities can promote academic success in older adults.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:education, aged, older, adult, predictors, genetic, age
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Education Systems
Research Field:Continuing and Community Education
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health)
Objective Field:Health Related to Ageing
Author:Imlach, A (Miss Abbie-Rose Imlach)
Author:Ward, DD (Mr David Ward)
Author:Stuart, KE (Miss Kimberley Stuart)
Author:Summers, MJ (Dr Mathew Summers)
Author:King, AE (Associate Professor Anna King)
Author:Saunders, NL (Dr Nichole Saunders)
Author:Summers, J (Professor Jeffery Summers)
Author:Srikanth, VK (Dr Velandai Srikanth)
Author:Robinson, A (Professor Andrew Robinson)
Author:Vickers, JC (Professor James Vickers)
ID Code:122661
Year Published:2017
Deposited By:Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2017-11-21
Last Modified:2018-07-24
Downloads:5 View Download Statistics

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