This article explores the benefits to older people of participation in formal study, and considers these in the context of the general debate about the constituents of quality of life. It is based on a study of older students who attended extra‐mural type classes at a London University college. The findings of a postal questionnaire survey are presented as context for a discussion of in‐depth interviews with a selection of participants. Illustrative case studies are presented, highlighting the discourses related to the benefits of study and their meanings in the different lives of the individuals. The second part of the analysis links these findings to issues related to the measuring of quality of life. It is argued that while the emotionally based concerns of individuals often figure most highly in their definition of quality of life, their need to spend time meaningfully is an additional, important dimension. Thus, formal study ‐ through the process itself as well as its outcomes ‐ plays an important role in contributing to the quality of life of older learners, giving them a feeling of ‘time well spent’.
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