Elheru Aran wrote:As for older people having less literacy: I suspect there's probably a strong correlation between that and rural areas. For a long time it wasn't uncommon in farming areas for the kids to only go to school for part of the normal school year in order to help their families with harvest and other farming work. We've largely moved past that now, but I would not be surprised at all if these senior citizens' education suffered back in the day due to precisely this reason.
My grandmother never got beyond a 5th grade education, and her only job prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom (which was more typical back then) was a brief stint as a dental assistant. She dropped out of school when her father died to help raise her younger siblings. My grandfather got as far as 8th grade and grew up on a cotton farm in the middle of nowhere, and other than being a comms specialist in the army during WW2 he spent his entire adult life as a telephone worker and wood carver (I still have his 'self-portrait' he carved of himself climbing a telephone pole). He dropped out of school to work on the farm, precisely the scenario you suspect is responsible for lower literacy in seniors.
Going by education, neither was particularly 'advanced', but both were extremely literate and well-informed, and both put a high value on knowledge. They had both a World Book Encyclopedia and an Encyclopedia Britannica, when either set cost nearly as much as a car, and both they and my parents made a habit of reading one volume per month, partly for fun and partly to be informed. I inherited the Britannica, my aunt got the World Book and tossed it out.
So I would say being from poor families (my grandfather got his first pair of shoes when he was 10, and didn't see his first electric light until he was 6... and he'd been picking cotton since he was 4) in rural areas definitely impacted their education, but it certainly didn't affect their literacy.
In point of fact, most older people I know (and I've always hung with a crowd 20 to 30 years my senior, just because there wasn't anyone my age to be around) are far more literate and have a broader vocabulary than the current generation. My younger siblings don't read anything more complicated than the tv guide or a fashion magazine and on more than one occasion at family gatherings I've had to stop my conversation to explain a word or phrase they didn't understand. My poor niece is growing up in the age of texting and has difficulty reading words with more than one syllable.
So going by that, I suspect that older people and literacy may not fit within a neat box of "they grew up with less access to information and poorer educations".
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