The Socrates café at ‘Cuan’ day centre is a nonformal educational initiative. The café is loosely based on the Socratic method of seeking the truth through questioning and dialogue. The participants include people who attend the day centre, staff and students on placement. The Socrates café aims to treat older people as ‘elders’, providing intellectual challenge and opportunity for learning. Based on participant observation and interviews with participants and organisers, the paper will examine the purposes, benefits and use of community philosophy as an empowering tool.

Social justice demands that we seek to create the conditions for people to flourish. Yet, our elder care services often treat older people as passive and incapable. Services for older people have traditionally adopted a care and health focus and there has been little emphasis on adult learning especially for people in the 'fourth' age. The findings suggest that the café provides an important forum for learning in a convivial environment with positive impacts for participants and benefits for the organisation itself. The café succeeded in integrating and linking participants with wider communities and promoting further learning opportunities. Located at the intersection of social care work and adult education, the paper argues that the Socrates café helps the participants to be self-advocates and to create the conditions for their own social inclusion. Drawing on the experiences of participants at the Socrates café the paper considers the potential of Community Philosophy to promote greater social engagement in an elder care setting.