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Lifelong Learning for Seniors at Universities of the Third Age (U3A Australia)

written by: Shey Marque•edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi•updated: 12/10/2009

This article will introduce U3A Australia's online courses designed for seniors and other people living in isolation. A discussion of the benefits, costs, types of online courses for senior citizens is available.

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    Benefits of Lifelong Learning for Seniors

    The United Nations has estimated that twenty percent of the population will be aged 60 or over by the year 2050.

    For many people the age of retirement is young enough to continue to enjoy life and continue to make a significant contribution to society. This period of active retirement is termed the ‘third age’.

    Engagement in lifelong learning into our retirement brings benefits to social life, cognitive function, psychological health and society in general.

    Many seniors worry about declining mental agility and memory. Decline in these abilities may be prevented or slowed significantly by learning a new skill or hobby.

    People with qualifications and experience in certain areas or with extensive knowledge relating to hobbies may be encouraged to contribute to the learning of others by writing short introductory courses in their area of expertise.

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    Online Courses at U3A

    Lifelong learning for seniors is accessible to those with professional and non-professional backgrounds alike, in addition to those without a working background or minimal formal education.

    All that is required to enroll is a willingness to learn and remain active or pursue an interest in any subject from skilled disciplines to hobbies.

    Mobility is not an issue because courses may be completed entirely online at home.

    The University of the Third Age (U3A Australia) offers a wide range of courses online at very low cost. Participants may enroll at any time of year and choose their own study timetable. Some courses are moderated by a tutor while others are self-paced.

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    Using the Internet

    A large number of older people using the Internet are increasing every year. Many seniors feel using the Internet is safer than leaving home. In addition, learning via the Internet challenges their cognitive abilities and keeps them connected to society.

    U3A courses are also geared specifically for people who have no experience with computers. All that is required is access to a computer either at home or at the local library. Often library staff is available to show the public how to begin to operate equipment and access the Internet.

    From there the computer courses build user skill and confidence in using the Internet. In Australia approximately 2,000 Internet kiosks will be installed in all States/Territories to provide free access to computers, broadband services and training to seniors. These kiosks are to be operational by 2011.

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    Availability and Cost of Online Courses for Seniors

    U3A is an international movement through which courses are open to anyone anywhere in the world.

    Small membership fees usually apply which are in the range of $25. The cost of individual study courses is included in the membership fee.

    Courses with a tutor run for around 6 weeks at a cost of $5. The types of courses include Aging and Retirement, Maintaining Independence, Astronomy, Genealogy, My Life Story, Writing Family History, Writing for Pleasure and many others.

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    Sources

    U3A Online, http://www3.griffith.edu.au/03/u3a/