Mexico opens university for the elderly

April 9th, 2009 - 9:24 am ICT by IANS  

By Laura Gonzalez de Artaza
Mexico City, April 9 (EFE) Computer science, law, languages and yoga are some of the subjects included in Mexico’s first university for the elderly, an innovative project that seeks to respond to the gradual ageing of the population.

Approximately eight percent of Mexicans are over 60, a proportion that rises to 16 percent in the capital borough of Benito Juarez, home of the new institution.

Around half of the seniors in Benito Juarez finished elementary school but only three percent attended high school, according to the borough’s top official, German de la Garza, who considers this group to be “a vulnerable sector”.

It is estimated that by 2010 one in every 10 Mexicans will be over age 60 and in 2050 one in every three.

The construction of the university, which was inaugurated two weeks ago, cost some 25 million pesos ($1.84 million).

“It’s a completely friendly building for the elderly” with ramps, elevators and escalators, de la Garza told EFE.

It also has a medical office, legal and psychological advice offices, libraries, a covered gymnasium and an open-air one, as well as a coffee shop on the terrace.

The study plan includes mathematics, English, French, economics, finance, accounting and basic computer and Internet skills, among other subjects, he said.

Also included on the curriculum are literature, general and Mexican history, art history, philosophy, music appreciation and law.

There will be workshops on mental gymnastics, speech therapy, death and dying, reading and editing, literary composition, painting, alternative nutrition, environmental education, design, microwave cooking, human rights and healthy living.

In the physical education area, the university will offer classes in both pilates and regular yoga, taichi and gyrokinesis, which combines the latter two disciplines with dance and gymnastics.

There will also be special courses on emotional intelligence, the psychology for the elderly, sexuality, free time management, leadership, self-esteem, domestic violence and depression, among others.

The university, which has the capacity to provides classes for 1,200 students simultaneously and which will begin offering courses from May, on its opening day received 500 applications from prospective students and during its first week in operation more than 1,600.

One of the potential students, Sonia Martinez, 65, said that she wants to take better advantage of her free time learning English and general history.

“We have something more to do in life, not just stay at home,” she said.

Jose Lopez, 63, said he was interested in the human rights course since “very few people in Mexico know what their obligations are and what rights they have”.

With his studies, Lopez wants to help his peers become acquainted with rights issues.

“The true cement in this building is the gratitude we should have to the generations that gave life to us, who came before us, who did their utmost for us, who educated us, who provided food for us, who took care of us,” de la Garza said.

She said she regretted that currently the elderly in Mexico remain largely “marginalised”.

The new educational centre is going to offer courses and seminars so as to learn how to care for people over 60 years old and it has even created an innovative “school for (adult) children”.

There, instructors will teach what adults need to know about elderly parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles “to be able to understand” and not forget that they are “worthy people, who have minds, needs and a way of being” that is specific to their age.

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