Age Concern has called on the government to help older people develop their skills amid discussions in parliament last week.
The government will fail to meet its target of helping 3.6 million people gain level two skills before 2010 and 90 per cent of all adults by 2020 unless the focus is on older people, the charity warned.
It argued that current skills strategies have done hardly anything to increase the proportion of over 40-year-olds with level two qualifications.
Gordon Lishman, the director general of Age Concern, said: "The separate debates on skills and demographic change are both welcome, but they need to be combined to meet the 2020 challenge and to prepare the UK's economy for the future.
"Older workers need increasingly to become the focus of education and training to redress the present imbalance and meet the targets for the future."
Last week's Westminster Hall debate came ahead of this summer's comprehensive spending review, in which the government has pledged to respond to the demographic challenges facing the UK.
However, Age Concern has warned that the review will enable the government to "age proof the raft of existing skills policy initiatives".
According to the charity there has been a 26 per cent drop in the number of over-65s in education, despite the benefits on independence and health.