Study never stops for life-long learners

Study never stops for life-long learners

Mature-age students are filling lecture theatres across the University in pursuit of life-long learning.

You’re never too old to learn, just ask the 240 people aged over 55 who are currently enrolled at UOW. 

Enrolments in 2014 of current and new students show that many people in the region have a passion for life-long learning. 

Of the 240 students aged over 55 the majority are aged between 55 and 65 years old, however a small number of students over 70 are studying. 

The enrolment numbers further show that of the 240 students 59 are studying at doctoral level. As testament to the adage that you’re never too old to learn, five people over the age of 70 are enrolled in undergraduate courses. 

Courses in the Arts such as languages, literature and history, are popular choices among the over 55s. 

The current batch of students are following in the footsteps of UOW’s oldest ever graduate Sidney Chuck, who at the ripe old age of 88 graduated last year a Bachelor of Arts from UOW’s Bateman’s Bay campus. 

Mr Chuck completed a diploma of engineering in 1950, but said he lamented not developing skills other than technology. So more than half a century later he enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts with double majors in English literature and history in mid-2010. 

“I was seeking a purpose and I read in a seniors’ publication about mature-age students and thought maybe I could do something like that,” Mr Chuck told the Batemans Bay Post

Mr Chuck grew up in Sydney and served with the Royal Australian Air Force from 1943 at the age of 18. Posted to the Pacific Ocean listening stations to track enemy radio transmissions.

Through his studies at UOW he explored range of topics, from American slavery to Australia’s indigenous history.

“I learned things I had never known, even though I had lived here for such a long time,” he said.

Mature age students have long been a part of the student make up at UOW with more than 6,000 graduating over the past decade.

By 2050, the number of Australians aged 50 and over will have increased by more than 80 per cent to 6.4 million people.

UOW’s ‘Living well, longer’ research theme in the Global Challenges program is looking into how this demographic shift and mature-age citizens can play a greater social, economic and cultural role in society.

Global Challenges researcher Professor Richard Fleming, Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health Fellow and Director of the NSW/ACT Dementia Training Study Centre, said there were about 300,000 people with dementia in Australia today, and the best predictor of dementia was age.

Professor Fleming said about two percent of the population aged 60-64 have dementia and this proportion doubles every five years through the life span, resulting in 25 per cent of those over 85 years of age being affected.

“As Australia is an ageing society the number of people with dementia will double in the next 20 years.

“We don’t know how to cure it but we do know that engaging in physical activity, social interaction and lots of mental activity helps to prevent it and may even improve the abilities of those who already have dementia.

“So it is welcome news to hear that there are 240 students over the age of 55 enrolled in UOW. 

“Their engagement in university life will serve them well. It would be good for all of us if they could persuade their friends to enroll too.”