- Tuesday, 24 April 2012
University classrooms are to be brought into care homes in a bid to help develop eager older minds.
The University of the Third Age, which consists of more than 800 volunteer-run local groups, views the expansion as reaching out to the “fourth age”.
It is hoped that the move will mentally stimulate pensioners who can no longer live independently and are unable to attend lessons outside the home.
More than 300 courses - from languages to photography - will be taught online through computers or in classes held at care homes.
The University is run through local self-help groups, each a charity in their own right, who are independent to choose which courses to run depending on an area’s demand and skills.
Groups have previously provided educational, creative and leisure opportunities for people who are not in full time employment.
But now - in a vote of confidence in the older generation - they will now help would-be students in care homes,as well as those who can travel to meetings and events.
Ian Searle, national chairman of the University of the Third Age, said many pensioners would benefit from the “broadening” of teaching locations.
He said: “We know that learning benefits the frail elderly. It’s been shown that care homes which provide learning opportunities need fewer sleeping drugs and fewer incontinence pads.
“Without learning opportunities, care homes can simply become places where society ‘parks’ the frail and elderly while they await death. Residents can become over-medicated and under-stimulated.
“There is no reason at all why learning should cease when you become old and frail. We want to see an end to the practise of lining residents up in front of the television all day.”
The University, which teaches subjects including crafts and computing, uses a ‘learning is for pleasure’ approach - meaning no accreditation, assessments or qualifications.
Fiona Aldridge, head of research at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education said: “All older people in care settings should have the opportunity to take part in learning activities, to stimulate them, help them acquire new skills and to share ones they already have with others.
“The research we, and others, have done, proves there are multiple positive benefits that learning has, not only on residents but for the staff working in care homes as well.”
The organisation has appealed for members who can teach others through interactive online courses to come forward.
By Andrew Young - Mature Times Editor
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