A significant number of elderly Bolivians have found a new horizon and have revived their desire to obtain higher level education now that they’re retired. The Universidad Municipal del Adulto Mayor en La Paz, which this week inaugurated its new headquarter, offers classes that teach them various trades with young volunteer professionals while nurturing their personal relationships and self-health care.
"They learn about their rights and legal areas so they can protect themselves from theft, for example. They also know about the local health systems and how to feed themselves," explained Claudia Jinés, director of social care at the city of La Paz. "Our older adults are not necessarily taught something new because they have hands on experience of many years in various areas. In consequence, they are only given methodologies to order their knowledge and wisdom”.
The university has been in use since 2014 and so far, there have been three graduating classes of senior citizens. These courses are for free, led by twenty young volunteers from Monday to Thursday. For those who prefer short sessions, this academy offers twelve alternative workshops of yoga, singing, dance, computer, origami, crafts, among others.
"I was told that being sedentary brings muscle and intellectual problems with it, so in order not to lose this, I had the initiative to go to college”, said Andrés González, a current student at the University.
One of the most striking workshops is the one that teaches them about computers. Senior citizens connect for the first time with this technology and are enthusiastic about learning everything about it. From turning on a computer to managing an email account, to using WhatsApp, as well as being active within various social networks like Facebook to stay connected with family members.
After completing three years of training, the elderly students become part of a group called "dignity brigades". It is currently composed of about 200 people whose mission is to visit hospitals and nursing homes to spread their knowledge to those who cannot benefit from higher lever education.
With this initiative, they feel as if they are a valuable aspect of society regardless of their advanced age. They feel Bolivia is giving them a second chance to make their dreams come true. A great example for the rest of Latin America, a region that often forgets to take care of its elderly population.
LatinAmerican Post | Manuela Pulido