Studying in old age
Especially those who have been active all their lives often feel like plunging into a study again in old age. Photo: Friso Gentsch/dpa/dpa-tmn
And where can you pursue these interests better than at a university or college? If you are attracted to studying again in old age, you have various options. What you need to know:
What is a senior degree?
As a senior or senior citizen, there are various options for studying open to you. On the one hand, there is the normal standard study, which can still be completed in old age. Here you have to take all exams regularly and get a degree.
“But if you have already completed a whole professional life, you no longer need a professional qualification, but can freely follow your interests,” says Bernd Schmitt from the Academic Association of Seniors in Germany (AVDS).
According to the expert, some universities have therefore introduced a separate senior study with its own structure. There are introductory courses, minor examinations and also certificates of achievement and final certificates – however, it is oriented differently than a standard course of study.
However, it is much more common to participate in the teaching business as a guest student or guest student. “Here you attend lectures and can put together your own program according to your interests as part of the offer, since there is no predefined structure here,” says Schmitt.
Where can I find information?
Universities, as a rule, decide for themselves what form of study for the elderly they offer. For example, the AVDS provides an overview on its website ( www.avds.de ) and in his study guide. The universities themselves also usually have their own coordinators for senior and guest student studies, who advise on the form and procedure.
What is the reason to dare to study in old age?
“We often see a high level of motivation among older people: they want to stay mentally fit and flexible, discover new things, continue their education and make good use of their time,” says Doris Lechner, coordinator of the guest student and senior studies program at the University of Mannheim. In addition, you would be happy to meet people with similar interests and make contacts.
The social component is particularly important, as Jaroslaw Wasik, who heads the Academy for Continuing Education and Senior Studies at the University of Bremen, also experiences: “People come to us again and again, some for more than 20 years. Friendships and social circles are created, which is just wonderful. These people are alive, active and have a lot of fresh ideas in their heads.”
For some, it is also the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that was denied to them in their youth. “In the past, some women in particular were not allowed to study, but now they are fulfilling this wish.” Others were too busy in their professional lives and could not study intensively. “They’re catching up on that now, some with impressive determination,” Wasik says. “Our record is currently held by a participant who attends events amounting to 34 lessons per week. Respect.”
Seniors and young adults learn together – does it work?
On the one hand, how much contact and exchange there is between the groups is, of course, up to the students themselves. On the other hand, it is also necessary to take into account certain structures of universities. “If an event has only limited places, preference is given to young students, since they are working towards a professional degree,” says Doris Lechner.
That is why not all events are always open to seniors. Many seminars and tutorials, but also some subjects, such as medicine, are usually reserved for regular students.
Where older and young students study together, there are very different dynamics. “Sometimes there are certain fears of contact from both sides,” admits Lechner. “But if we consciously promote the exchange between old and young with cross-generational projects, it always works very well and great conversations are created.”
Are there prerequisites for studying in old age?
A guest student course is open to everyone and can also be taken without a high school diploma. “However, a guest student course is also a course of study, so you should basically be the guy for it,” says Wasik.
This results in a very heterogeneous group of students senior citizens – although academics are in a clear majority. “It is important for her to understand that some teaching content and perspectives have changed since the time of her own studies and to be open to it,” says Doris Lechner.
Regardless of previous experience, Yaroslav Vasik observes one thing in common: “Usually the very active people come in life who are rather bored in retirement and are used to making a social contribution.” They look back on a successful career and can not just stop being active in old age. The study offers you the opportunity to continue to live out your life.