Studying at an older age trains the brain

Würzburg (dpa / tmn) – Retirement is actually a well-deserved rest phase. But what do you do with all the time you suddenly have? If you feel like it, you can now take care of things that have always interested you.

And what better place to pursue these interests than a university or college? If you are drawn to studying again in old age, you have several options. What do you want to know:

What is Graduate Studies?

As a senior, different study options are available to you. On the one hand there is the normal standard diploma which you can still obtain in old age. Here you have to pass all the regular exams and get a diploma.

“Anyone who already has a whole career behind him no longer needs a professional qualification, but can follow his interests freely,” says Bernd Schmitt of the Academic Association for Senior Citizens in Germany (AVDS).

According to the expert, some universities have therefore introduced a separate higher course with its own structure. There are introductory events, smaller exams and also performance records and final certificates – but it is structured differently from a regular study programme.

However, participation in teaching as a visiting student is much more common. “Here you attend lectures and can compose your program according to your interests because there is no predefined structure here,” says Schmitt.

Where can I find information?

Universities usually decide for themselves what form of study they offer to older people. The AVDS offers an overview on its website ( and in its study guide. The universities themselves usually have their own coordinators for senior and visiting student studies who advise on form and process.

What speaks of daring to study in old age?

“We often see a high level of motivation in older people: they want to stay mentally fit and mobile, to discover new things, to continue their studies and to use their time wisely”, says Doris Lechner, coordinator of the guest listener and studies on the elderly at the University of Mannheim. They would also be happy to meet and socialize with people with similar interests.

The social component is particularly important, as Jaroslaw Wasik, who heads the academy for further education and studies for the elderly at the University of Bremen, observes: “People continue to come to us, some for more than 20 years . Friendships and social circles grow, It’s just wonderful. These people are lively, active and have lots of fresh ideas in their heads.”

For some, it’s also the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that was denied to them when they were young. “Some women in particular weren’t allowed to study before, but now they get that wish.” Others were too busy in their professional life and could not study really intensively. “They are catching up now, some with impressive determination,” Wasik says. “Our record is held by a participant who attends events totaling 34 teaching hours per week. Respect.”

Seniors and young adults learn together – does it work?

The degree of contact and exchange between the groups depends partly on the students themselves and partly on certain university structures. “If an event only has a limited number of places, preference is given to young students, since they are in the process of obtaining a professional diploma”, specifies Doris Lechner.

For this reason, not all events are always open to seniors. Many seminars and tutorials, but also certain subjects, such as medicine, are mainly reserved for regular students.

Where older students and younger students learn together, there are very different dynamics. “Sometimes there are certain reservations on both sides,” admits Lechner. “But if we consciously promote the exchange between old and young with intergenerational projects, it always works very well and nice conversations develop.”

Are there any prerequisites for studying in old age?

Guest auditor studies are open to everyone and can also be accepted without a high school diploma. “However, a guest auditor course is also a degree program, so you should be the guy for it,” Wasik says.

The result is a very heterogeneous group of senior students – although academics are by far the majority. “It is important for them to understand that certain teaching content and perspectives have changed since their own studies and to be open to it,” explains Doris Lechner.

Irrespective of previous experience, Jaroslaw Wasik sees one thing in common: “Mostly people come here who are very active, who tend to be bored in retirement and who are used to making a social contribution . You can look back on a successful career and can’t just stop being active when you get older. The course offers them the opportunity to continue to express themselves.

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