Evaluating self-directed learning abilities as a prerequisite of health literacy among older people: Findings from a validation and a cross-sectional study

Lucia Cadorin, Luca Grassetti, Eva Paoletti, Angelisa Cara, Ivana Truccolo, Alvisa Palese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and objectives: To validate a tool measuring self-directed learning (SDL) abilities and to determine these abilities among older individuals attending the University of the Third Age. Background: Health literacy (HL) and SDL abilities have been documented as being closely linked to each other and as prerequisites in enhancing self-management competences required by older people to protect their health and to manage health issues. Furthermore, individuals with SDL abilities have been documented to have a full understanding of their health treatment prescriptions, to be able to demonstrate increased compliance and to further develop self-care competences. Design: A validation and a cross-sectional study design. Methods: A consecutive sample of 313 older people (68.7% female) who attended lessons in two Italian Universities of the Third Age and who were willing to participate in the study were enrolled. The Self-Rating Scale of Self-Directed Learning (SRSSDL) validated previously in the healthcare context, was used. Results: At the exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, the SRSSDL in Older people (SRSSDLO) has demonstrated good psychometric properties: the tool is composed by four factors (“Awareness,” “Attitudes,” “Availability” and “Motivation”) and 13 items. According to the findings, the average SDL score was 54.27 ± 6.69 out of 65, and women achieved significantly higher scores compared with men (54.81 ± 6.69 vs. 53.08 ± 6.54, p =.033), while participants with a university degree (55.95 ± 6.56) or secondary education (54.75 ± 6.13) had higher scores than those with lower secondary education (50.37 ± 7.34, p =.002). Conclusions: Participants were responsible for their learning processes and were capable of identifying learning needs and goals. They were also internally motivated to develop learning methods and to organise learning activities. However, they were less able to keep up to date with the learning resources available. Implications for Practice: The SRSSDLO can help nurses identify healthy older people that lack SDL abilities and design tailored educational interventions to prevent health conditions and/or promote self-care management in chronic conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12282
JournalInternational journal of older people nursing
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • health literacy
  • health promotion
  • older people
  • self-directed learning
  • self-management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology


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