90-year-old Tasmanian teacher finished her PhD on creative writing in aged care homes

90-year old Joan Webb recently graduated with a PhD from the University of Tasmania. She began her Master’s in 2011 and started her doctorate in 2013.
What motivated her to write her dissertation with the title “I only look forward to Mondays: Facilitating creative writing groups: Ageism, action and empowerment”? Joan started teaching at a school for seniors in Launceston in her late 80’s and frequently visited people in aged care homes who wouldn’t be able to come to the school. She began teaching writing sessions in creative writing and poetry there. ““There are people in high care who have lost a massive amount of their physical capacity, and still have the most amazing ideas and creativity within them”, Joan told the ABC. What an inspiration!
Read the full story here.

Maintaining social links in old age might even be more important for health than keeping fit

The power of social connections in older age: A recent study from the University of Queensland in Australia found “that maintaining social links in old age might even be more important for health than keeping fit. (…) They found that the more social groups the pensioners belonged to after they stop working, the lower their risk of an early death. The scientists found a six-fold different in mortality rates between those who stayed a member of at least two social groups they had belonged to before retirement, and those who stopped attending the clubs.”

The More Education The Better – Education May Cut Dementia Risk

“The risk of developing dementia is decreasing for people with at least a high school education, according to an important new study that suggests that changes in lifestyle and improvements in physical health can help prevent or delay cognitive decline. The study, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, provides the strongest evidence to date that a more educated population and better cardiovascular health are contributing to a decline in new dementia cases over time, or at least helping more people stave off dementia for longer.”
Read more about the study here

97-year-old finally gets her high school diploma

You are never too old to pursue your dreams! Margaret Thome Bekema, 97, never graduated from Grand Rapids Catholic Central High, since she was forced to leave school to take care of her siblings and her mother who was sick with cancer. However, thanks to one of her relatives, Bekema recently received an honorary diploma – 79 years after she was supposed to graduate.
Read this wonderful story here.

U.S. study shows that an intellectual life could protect against Dementia

Another exciting reason why not to stop learning in older age: Researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that mental activites in older age can delay cognitive impairments significantly. “Even for people with less education, mental activity in mid and late life gave them at least three years of protection against cognitive impairment.”

Learn more about the study here

Ten Benefits of Lifelong Learning

People and Learning Concept with Textured EffectThe 10 benefits of Lifelong Learning by Nancy Merz Nordstrom:

“10. Lifelong learning helps fully develop natural abilities.
9. Lifelong learning opens the mind.
8. Lifelong learning creates a curious, hungry mind.
7. Lifelong learning increases our wisdom.
6. Lifelong learning makes the world a better place.
5. Lifelong learning helps us adapt to change.
4. Lifelong learning helps us find meaning in our lives.
3. Lifelong learning keeps us involved as active contributors to society.
2. Lifelong learning helps us make new friends and establish valuable relationships.
1. Lifelong learning leads to an enriching life of self-fulfillment.”

91-year-old graduates from San Diego State University

Congratulations to Elisabeth Vito who just earned her bachelor’s degree in German Studies at the age of 91!

“More than ten years ago, Vito first began taking classes at SDSU more than 10 years ago as a way to stay social and continue her education. She never considered getting a degree until a counselor told her she was eligible for graduation from the German program. Helping her along the way was Serving Seniors, a local nonprofit that helps low-income seniors with nutrition programs, mental health counseling, housing assistance and other services.Vito’s been able to work on homework, take classes and get rides to school through the program — though she recently got her driver’s license at age 90.”

Read Elisabeth Vito’s story here

Conference on Aging 2015

Many highly interesting national and international conferences on aging will take place this year, such as the Third Annual Conference on Aging and Cognition in Dortmund, Germany (April 23-25)  or the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2015 in Washington D.C., U.S. (July 18-23).

Please check out the conference page and stay up to date with all upcoming meetings!

Strategies for Learning over the Lifespan

iStock_000018093170SmallAre you interested in how to make lifelong learning more accessible for our frail or oldest-old learners? Do you want to find out more about strategies for learning over the lifespan? Or would you like to learn more about the specifics of learners in the fourth age?

You can find answers to these questions at the presentation that I gave together with a colleague from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC Berkeley at this years Aging in America Conference in Chicago.

The main insights from the talk at a glance:

  •  Learners in the Fourth Age will be the new target group in the future, therefore a greater understanding of this age group is necessary.
  • More research on the lifelong learning needs and requirements of people in the fourth age is necessary, as well as the development of more targeted programs.
  • Education for people in the fourth age needs to be flexible in time, location, and accessibility.
  • Institutions need to be sensitive around the reasons why people drop-out of lifelong learning.
  • MOOCs and other forms of online learning will play a bigger role facilitating continued engagement in learning throughout the lifespan.
  • We need a more resource-oriented, than loss-oriented perspective about aging!