Long Life Learning: Which are the Countries with the Best Education for the Elderly?

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The concept of Long Life Learning is rethinking the education model to offer educational programs for pensioners and older adults. Get to know the countries of Latin America and the world that are leading this trend.

Older adult in a library

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Long Life Learning: ¿Cuáles son los países con mejor educación para adultos mayores?

Long Life Learning is a term that refers to the idea that learning occurs throughout all life stages. That is, it is not limited solely to the elementary years of school or subsequent college or technical education. On the contrary, it refers to the continuous educational process throughout life, which allows one to continue learning and updating knowledge and skills throughout one's professional and personal career.

Although Long Life Learning is a response to the rapid technological changes in society that require constant updating of people to stay active in the labor market, it is also a concept that allows the integration of continuous learning to improve skills and well-being of people. In this way, the concept of Long Life Learning includes thinking about educational programs for older adults.

This need also occurs as the population ages and has greater life expectancy. In this sense, it is about offering learning opportunities for those who have left the formal education system and wish to continue learning. "Healthy and independent older people contribute to the well-being of the family and the community, and it is a myth to present them as passive recipients of social or health services," says PAHO.

Education for older adults can offer a variety of learning options, from specific courses to improve skills and knowledge in areas such as the use of new technologies, to continuing education programs that allow expanding skills and knowledge in areas such as literature, art, and culture. The goal of education for older adults is to promote lifelong learning and provide opportunities for older people to continue learning and developing intellectually, which can improve their quality of life, keep their minds active, and prevent cognitive deterioration.

We recommend you read: Living longer is not always living better: aging in Latin America

Leading countries in education for the elderly in Latin America and the world

Many of today's retirees want to stay active, whether it's traveling, studying, or participating in leisure activities. In fact, a high percentage of this population reaches maturity with financial resources to invest and fewer responsibilities. According to the UN: "The 'silver economy' is estimated to be worth US$15 trillion ." For this reason, there is an increasing supply, both private and public, for this purpose. "University of Experience" or "Senior University" are some of the names that are being adopted around the world for these programs.

Countries like Japan, the United States or Spain already have decades of experience with education for the elderly. In the Spanish case, almost all universities have options for people over 65 with the Senior University Programs (PUM). Before the pandemic, more than 63,000 people had benefited. In the United States, for decades there have been programs that allow people over the age of 55 to attend classes in educational institutions, in many cases as listeners, that is, without qualifications.

In Latin America, Long Life Learning is a trend that is not far behind. Uruguay is a leader on the subject and has had the University for the Third Age since 1983. Today it is present in all the departments of the country. In Chile, there is also a wide offer for older adults. The Catholic University, the University of Santiago de Chile, the University of Viña del Mar or the Universidad Mayor, which has existed since 2008, offer training in old age. In Mexico, there is the Mexican University for the Elderly and a wide educational offer in various institutes.

In the Colombian case, different universities are expanding their offer to reach the older population. This is the case of the Sapientia Senior Academy of the University of La Sabana, the EAFIT with the project "Saberes de vida" or the Universidad del Rosario with UR Senior. In Argentina the case is similar, the National University of Rosario, the University of Córdoba or the National University of San Juan offer Long Life Learning opportunities. This trend is replicated in several countries in the region, so it is essential to inquire about the best offers in your country or region if you want to continue training.

Benefits of education for older adults

There are numerous benefits for people who want to join the education system in old age or after retirement. Some of them are:

Mental stimulation: Lifelong learning can help keep the brain active and healthy, which can prevent or delay the onset of cognitive diseases such as dementia.

Improved Self-Esteem: Staying active through education can help maintain personal satisfaction, which can improve self-esteem and self-confidence.

Expansion of knowledge and skills: That people in their old age learn skills that help them improve their well-being is important. In this regard, the United Nations points out that "creating inclusive digital environments and communities suitable for all ages" is a key objective in the development of technology. Learning about digital skills can be useful for health care and social relationships.

Social and support networks: Learning in the third age can provide an opportunity to make new friends and establish social and support relationships, which can be especially valuable in addressing the problems of loneliness and isolation that many older people already experience.

Employment and Volunteer Opportunities: Learning in later life can also provide employment and volunteer opportunities, which can improve the financial situation of older people and increase their sense of purpose and meaning.