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

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 13:47 authored by Imlach, A, Ward, DD, Kimberley StuartKimberley Stuart, Mathew SummersMathew Summers, Valenzuela, MJ, Anna KingAnna King, Saunders, NL, Jeffery SummersJeffery Summers, Srikanth, VK, Andrew RobinsonAndrew Robinson, James VickersJames Vickers
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 (50–79 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.


Publication title

npj Science of Learning

Article number









Wicking Dementia Research Education Centre


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

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

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Health related to ageing

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