Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 6862-6873
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
In last decades, the nature of the elder cohort has changed due to different retirement patterns, longer life expectancies and better social programmes. Many Third Agers are still mental and physically alert, looking for opportunities to continue learning and keep their minds active. The idea of the Third Age University Programs (3AUP) was born at the University of Toulouse in 1973, and spread quickly throughout the world.
The number of Spanish Third Age learners has increased from 15.378 in the course 2005-06 to 21.581 in 2006-07, which represents an increase of 40.33%. In spite of that, the percentage of enrolled students with respect to +40 years population is still very low: only 0.11% as compared to 2.43% in Australia, 2.22% in Belgium and 1.43% in Finland (OCDE).
To analyze the characteristics of Third Age learners we use the Elders’ Living Conditions Survey (IMSERSO, 2006) which gathers information for +65 Spanish people. Third Age learners show some distinguishing characteristics: mainly women, living in municipalities with more than 10.00 inhabitants, better self-reported health status, more worried about loosing mental abilities and higher preference for reading, doing sport and using the computer. Besides that, only 8% of older students consider that most days are dull as compared to 20% for non-students. However, there still exists lack of information about these programs because only 58.82% of interviewed people reported some knowledge about them.
For the subsample of retired people, we estimate a bivariate probit model for the variables “participating in 3AUP” and “being satisfied with retirement situation”. We observe that the probability of being satisfied with one’s life conditioned on participating in 3AUP is higher (0.473) than when he does not participate (0.397).
Next, we propose to study the effects of 3AUP over quality of life for the whole population. We apply the Quality of Life Scale for Older People developed by Chang et al. (2004) (Social Indicators Research 69, 279-301). The percentage of third age students with very high quality of life is 47.95% compared to 34.92% for non-students. Moreover, there is not any student with bad quality of life. We estimate a multinomial logit model for the variable "quality of life". Several activities, such as caring of grand children, doing homecrafts or going to the church are associated with a higher probability of good quality of life (115%, 74% and 40%, respectively). Attending to 3AUP is the variable that most increases the probability of having good (223%) or very good (243%) quality of life.
Benefits derived from 3AUP are not only intellectual (knowledge received, keeping up-to-date), but also recreational (entertainment, stimulation, less pressure than in earlier education), social (making new friends, participation in the learning group) and psychological (personal development, self-esteem increase). In fact, the values of third age learners are valid for all ages and all educational levels, and 3AUP can be seen as a compensatory movement between the concept of economic welfare of a country and the welfare of the individual as an informed party of the society.
Finally, given than the participation in social and leisure activities is positively related to higher levels of health, financial resources spent on active ageing policies not only improve the health of the community but also might help to control health expenditure associated to population ageing.
university, third age, quality of life, satisfaction.