Husband and wife duo, Chris and Rebecca Meyers graduated with PhDs in Education at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre on December 14.
Aged 68 and 58, they are proof that lifelong learning is indeed possible.
“We thought the flexibility of studying together at home would enable us to give maximum attention to our son who was beginning his final year of high school and also our ageing parents,’’ Rebecca said.
Their journey was not without pitfalls, however, with the 2011 Brisbane floods briefly halting their study.
“Griffith gave us both six months extensions to our scholarships because of the floods, which was wonderfully generous and greatly appreciated. Also, being able to communicate my experiences, frustrations and problems to my husband helped with the thesis writing enormously.”
With many years spent teaching vocational education they know the barriers older jobseekers face and completed Masters of Education before starting their doctorates.
Challenges facing older jobseekers
Rebecca’s thesis explores the experiences of disadvantaged older jobseekers participating in training, while Chris’s explores the experiences of older workers in online learning.
Rebecca, who conducted 40 interviews with eight older jobseekers (55+) over an eight-month period, said there should be more training incentives and programs for older workers.
“Governments should provide more training support for older workers if they are serious about increasing their labour force participation to counteract the negative effects of an ageing population.”
“The major findings of my research were that these adults were keen to participate in training and become employed, but were hampered by a range of institutional, societal and personal barriers in completing their training and finding employment.
“For many of them, those barriers became overwhelming, resulting in them expressing feelings of frustration and depression, and one ceasing his training activities and seeking treatment from a psychologist.”
The participants had profound long-term issues (in education, work and personal areas), and they viewed government programs and support offered to them as inappropriate, insufficient and non-invitational.
None of the participants was fully employed either at the beginning or by the end of her study.
Chris analysed the experiences of 10 older workers in undergraduate online learning to understand the challenges they face and identify strategies to help them.
“The most prominent implications of the study for providers of online learning in higher education for older workers are the importance of providing accessible and highly-contextualised support for their use of technology,’’ Chris said.
“Clear direction in gathering resources online (graphics, text, images etc) is also needed, as well as opportunities for dialogue to enhance learning.”
Since the completion of their theses, Rebecca and Chris have been busy writing academic articles based on their research.
Both say they are happy to have finished their degrees and look forward to a well-deserved break from study before returning to some part-time work in 2016.