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Adulthood, ageing and the life course

In the twenty-first century many more adults will live for longer than in previous generations. The emergence of an ageing society can be celebrated, but it also poses many challenges. As workers, carers, or as people receiving health or social care support, this module will enable you to explore diverse individual, environmental, policy, and practice perspectives for adults and for adulthood. It will focus on later life, mental health, long-term conditions, learning disability, and drug and alcohol use. The module incorporates a rich blend of multi-media learning resources, including stimulating case material and opportunities for online collaborative learning.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.

3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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Student Reviews

A great module and one I would recommend anyone working in adult healthcare takes. The support from the tutor was...
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This was my final module for my degree, and it was one that I enjoyed and learnt a lot from....
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What you will study

There are four blocks of study in this module.

Block 1: Approaches to adulthood and ageing

Starting with an overview of adulthood this block draws upon your views and experiences, to consider the multi-layered theoretical and practical areas of adulthood, ageing, and the life course. The block will engage you in questions such as ‘What does it mean to be an adult?’, ‘How does ‘ageism’ impact on people of all ages?’, and ‘How does quality of life change over the life course?’.

Block 2: The environments of adult support

Block 2 explores the environment in relation to individual, social, and physical factors. For example, environments of the person and their relationships; the significance of housing and physical environments to health and wellbeing; and how communities can be developed to assist and sustain individuals and families. You also examine the impact of living in poverty and deprivation, drawing on a range of perspectives in this respect, and you consider the question of how to manage some of the conflicts and tensions that emerge.

Block 3: The impact of policy on practice

In this block you examine issues, themes, and trends in modern health and social care policy. You consider how, in the rapidly changing context of political, financial, and international events, policies are constructed and implemented, and the nature of your role in this context. You explore how the law fits into wider social policy in providing the framework of rules and requirements that govern practice interventions, and the ways in which governments arrange the funding of services to adults who need support. A key feature of current practice in health and social care is working collaboratively and you will examine the realities of this approach including studying and working collaboratively with students in your tutorial group. Finally in Block 3 you consider some international dimensions of health and social care beyond the UK. 

Block 4: Frameworks and skills for adult support

The module concludes in Block 4 with a focus on frameworks and skills for adult support. Drawing on your experiences in health and social care you identify and evaluate some of the principal skills required to work effectively in a caring and supporting role with adults. These include skills of communication; the processes and skills required for the effective assessment of need; and the nature of promoting health and wellbeing within the context of health and social care. You also consider how a range of skills may be used to support and empower individuals, groups and communities, including the particular context of safeguarding adults where individuals may be vulnerable to exploitation, neglect or to abuse. Finally you explore and evaluate the academic skills involved in conducting and appraising research in the process of supporting adults and in developing resources.

You will learn

Your learning will take place principally through the online learning guide via the website. This is a structured and guided online teaching environment where you engage with academic readings, websites, journal articles, video and audio clips, and a range of other learning elements that constitute the combined teaching materials for the module. The student learning activities in this context encourage you to rehearse and to develop your own lines of enquiry as an OU level 3 student. Alongside this there is online communication with other students studying the module and with your tutor. On a regular basis you can share and discuss your experiences and ideas about the material you are studying.

The video and audio materials are integrated into the online learning guide. These are also supplied to you on separate DVDs for offline use if required. You will receive as part of the set of study materials a module guide and a module reader to stimulate and support your learning.

In this module, you learn how to evaluate and communicate many of the important issues in adult health and social care. You will also develop your facility to appreciate some of the contested areas where there may be significant differences of view about the causes and solutions to problems, or about the allocation of resources. This learning takes place in the context of developing your knowledge and your critical understanding of adulthood and ageing, and of how this enhanced facility can make a significant and positive difference to your role as a carer, a service user, or to your role as a professional. You will be encouraged to reflect upon your own learning and how this may be applied positively in practical ways, exploring, developing, and at times perhaps being encouraged to challenge your own values, assumptions, and beliefs.

The module includes a wealth of material in relation to many of the commonly occurring categorisations and groupings within modern health and social care; such as: older people; mental health and wellbeing; long term conditions across the range of adult ability and disability; drug and alcohol use; and offending behaviour. These groupings, however, are not dealt with in fixed divisions but rather they are drawn upon throughout as illustrative and tangible examples in the process of learning about adulthood and ageing through the life course.

The module also incorporates many of the perspectives and ‘voices’ of people working in practice and of people who as adults are receiving support themselves, or have a role in supporting others. These voices are included as text items, and as video and audio clips, where people comment on particular ideas illustrating issues from their personal or their professional experience. These diverse perspectives bring an immediacy and variety to the study process as you learn to engage with and evaluate directly the opinions and the contexts of a rich variety of adults, their supporters, carers, and professionals. As students, you also join in this collaborative process by learning and sharing with your fellow students studying the module .

Vocational relevance

Some of your reasons to study this module may be linked to enhancing your employment prospects, or you may simply be curious to expand and develop your knowledge and understanding of the adults with whom you have some supporting or caring role; or you may be receiving support services yourself. Whatever your background and motivation, this module is designed to widen your horizons and to deepen and sharpen your facility to think holistically about the issues, structures, and the forces that create and shape adult lives and may lead to people needing additional support. This module will help you consider critically how problems may be addressed and how services may best be provided and sustained, individually, in groups, and through formal organisations.

Outside the UK

This module has learning content and case material that relates principally to students in a UK and in a Republic of Ireland context. This does not preclude students outside of the UK studying the module, however, and no additional equipment will be required.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor to help you with the study material and to assess your on-going progress by marking and commenting on your written work. You may ask your tutor for advice and guidance online or by phone as the module progresses. The contact with your tutor and other students will be through email, online discussion forums, and by telephone. 

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module, displayed in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

Adulthood, ageing and the life course starts once a year in October. This page describes the module starting in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2020.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU. However, you are not required to have studied before in this subject area.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.


    Start End England fee Register
    06 Oct 2018 Jun 2019 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2020.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 19/09/2018.

    What's included

    You will have access to a website, online forums, and the online library. You will receive information about how to access the website, a printed module guide, DVDs, a published module reader, and a range of online readings. On the website there is a module map which explains how the module content fits together and electronic versions of most of the printed study materials. These electronic versions, which are compatible with screen-reader software, may be useful if you wish to read on a mobile device where you do not have a WiFi connection, or you want to search for specific references and topics.

    You will need

    You will also need a headset, with a built-in microphone and earphones, to talk to your tutor and other students online during some of the module activities. 

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K319 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.