When Grandpa hits the books

Continuing education – more and more senior citizens are flocking to the universities

Career advisors and change managers are talking themselves blue in the face about life-long learning and the eternal pursuit of usable knowledge. Young, dynamic Christian Lindner from the Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei: FDP) wants to fight the diagnosed continuing education crisis with “federal financial aid for the middle-aged”. And, of all people, the ones now perking their ears to the careerist slogans are those who have long since escaped the economic hamster wheel – and they are doing it for the sheer joy of personal development.

Trading in growing roses for reading Plato, a growing number of senior citizens are facing up to the challenges in the lecture hall and the library and picking up a course of study. Humanities is the preferred discipline among senior citizens as they head out of their comfort zone and onto the unyielding chairs of the seminar rooms.

“There are no official figures”, reports Bernd Werner Schmitt from the Academic Seniors Association in Germany (Akademischer Verein der Senioren in Deutschland: AVDS). The AVDS has, however, attempted to calculate an estimate based on all the available data. “We come up with about 55,000 senior citizen students when we count all three types of students together: the conventional guest students of advanced age, students in structured course programmes for senior citizens and full-time students from the age of 60”. The figures are expected to rise when the generation of baby boomers hits retirement; studying is easiest when you enjoy good health and a favourable financial position.

As a rule, anyone in Germany with an entrance qualification for higher education is entitled to study – regardless of age. Those who would rather avoid the stress that goes along with exams can attend lectures and seminars as a guest student. At most universities, this option is even possible for those who don’t have an entrance qualification for higher education.

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