Chile has universities that are recognized the world over. The country’s higher education has improved by leaps and bounds in both quality and scope over the last few decades, opening up opportunities for professional and personal development. Between 2002 and 2008 enrollment in Chile’s 59 universities increased 59%. And while the vast majority of the new students are young people, there are ever more opportunities for the elderly – and not just Chileans – to continue their education.
One of these initiatives is U3E, the Universidad Mayor’s university study center for senior citizens that was founded in 2007. It is the first institution of its kind in Chile that is integrally designed to provide services to the elderly with an educational methodology that has been especially designed to allow its students to constantly renew themselves with new knowledge and experiences.
U3E includes schools on health, languages, entrepreneurship, education and culture, digital technology and tourism, both in the form of in-person classes as well as over the Internet. Thus, they give classes in English, computing, and the Internet; workshops on post-retirement entrepreneurship, Italian, integrated health workshops, memory reactivation and mental training workshops, yoga, art history, and autobiography workshops, among others.
In addition, the U3E recently launched its senior diploma course on Chilean Culture and Heritage: International Travelogue Program, which is aimed at foreign students in particular. It is an online course with an initial theoretical stage that teaches Chilean culture and history, followed by a 15-day trip around the country with everything included so they can personally experience what they have learned.
This educational-touristic program includes issues like Chilean political and social history; art history; ethnic handicraft and cultures; architectural and urban heritage; narrators and poets; and ethnographic cuisine. The trip, which can be to the southern or northern parts of the country, will provide a close and enriching chance to experience what has been learned through interaction with other people, exchanging customs, and entertainment.
As in Europe and Japan, though to a much lesser degree, Chile’s adult population represents an increasingly larger proportion of society. While people over the age of 60 totaled 11.4% nine years ago, the National Statistics Insitute (INE) has projected that the proportion will double in 2050, totaling 21.6% of the country. In addition, by that time average life expectancy will be 82 years and if the current retirement age is maintained, the people who will be grandparents around the middle of the century will have 17 years of free time. Thus the importance of ongoing education programs for the elderly.
Another Chilean institution that offers special courses for this sector of the population is the Universidad Católica de Chile (UC), through its Senior Citizen Programaimed at people over the age of 50. It offers courses that range from workshops aimed at the use of computer programs, Internet navigation techniques, and a digital photography workshop. In addition, it recently also included new subjects like social networks, with classes on Twitter and Facebook.
With 21 years of experience, every year the UC program receives over 1,200 students who in addition to increasing their knowledge take advantage of the occasion to meet with people of their age and to enjoy the facilities of the Centro de Extensión UC in downtown Santiago, with bookstores, a café, cinema, and exhibits. For the first quarter of 2010 the program will offer 11 courses and 3 workshops in diverse subjects, with an emphasis on promoting culture, creativity, and innovation.