Should Seniors embrace life-long learning?

From the moment they left school or university, too many people eliminated from their lives the thought of further education, and have not expanded their minds very much ever since.

Now, doctors tell us that mind exercise is fundamental to staying with it in our old age. Lots of reading is essential, but we are told that this is still not enough, as reading is really another form of relaxation. We should actually do a moderate amount of study to ensure that our brains are activated and our minds are expanding rather than declining.

Learning a new language is recommended, as this takes us into a new world — which is one of the reasons why I am taking up the study of Indonesian. Even better is to take on a whole university degree and have the satisfaction of graduating in our old age.

I read a few weeks ago that a 93-year-old Englishman has graduated for the first time. So, the sky is the limit and Australian Universities could really make money from this if they can get around to recognising that there is a massive market out there for students over 70 years of age.

Sadly, they currently ignore them.

This brings us to the economic challenge. Australia will need an ever-growing number of mature age workers in the years ahead. The alternative will be to increase immigration levels considerably.

To stay in the work force, or return to it, senior Australians will need retraining — particularly in view of the rapidly-changing digital economy, a knowledge of which will be an absolute fundamental for even the humblest of workers.

We are not really geared for this, but it is a role that TAFE colleges could take up in meeting the challenge.

I note that the future of TAFE is currently under review by most of our State Governments, with a view to closing-down some of them as a cost cutting exercise — noting that Universities and private educators have been attracting large numbers of TAFE students.

I reckon that they could become Colleges for Seniors and experience a new lease of life and relevance, serving the nation mightily as we enter the grey era.

To see if this may be a goer, I have opened discussions on the matter with three State Governments in my role as Chairman of the Federal Government’s Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing. I am advocating a trial run with a couple of TAFE colleges to test the student market, course requirements and overall logistics before embarking on a real run at it.

While this is occurring, we need to review also the general concept of lifelong learning, which some Seniors currently enjoy through the University of the Third Age and other similar initiatives.

It is time that the nation made a greater investment in this, as it will become an important element in the mental recreation of millions of senior Australians.

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