You are viewing information for England.  Change country.

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.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

Browse qualifications in related subjects


Module code
Study level
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

Student Reviews

Unable through illness to sit the examination, and daunted by the protocol required for a re submission. However, I managed...
Read more

This was my first OU level 3 course and I have to say I loved it, although a good tutor...
Read more

Request your prospectus

Explore our subjects and courses

Request your copy now

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

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


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

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


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
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

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 you register.

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.

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

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. 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 qualification 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 modules.  

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 that is 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 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 01/08/2015.

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

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.