Education & Family

University of Third Age expands to old people's homes

Old people at evening class
Image caption Most current members of University of the Third Age are physically active

A self-help education network for the elderly is planning to extend its courses into care homes.

The University of the Third Age, which consists of more than 800 local groups, is aiming to offer learning to people who can no longer live independently.

A spokesman said: "There is no reason at all why learning should cease when you become old and frail."

The organisation aims to expand its online courses but also wants local groups to run courses in care homes.

Most members of the University of the Third Age are active elderly people who are able to travel to meetings and events.

Local groups are independent and members decide what courses to do, relying on their own expertise and on online course material, provided centrally. The groups largely operate without tutors.

Announcing the expansion into care homes, the organisation said it wanted to reach out to what it called 'the fourth age'.

Instead of meeting in community halls or members' homes, the care home groups would largely meet online.

The organisation's national office has appealed for members who are willing to learn how to write and tutor interactive online courses.

The organisation is also encouraging local groups to consider delivering some courses within care homes.

The organisation called for other providers of life-long learning to get involved and for the government to provide funding.

'Fewer drugs'

Ian Searle, national chairman of University of the Third Age, said: "We aim to provide the quality of life of those who are no longer able to travel to our massively popular learning groups."

He said that research has shown that care homes which provide learning opportunities need fewer sleeping drugs and incontinence pads: "Without learning opportunities... residents can become over-medicated and under-stimulated."

Fiona Aldridge, head of research at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education welcomed what she called a tremendous initiative: "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." she said.

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