Jyväskylän kesäyliopisto

University Of The Third Age In Jyväskylä




Historical Background
The first University of the Third Age (UTA) in Finland was founded in 1985 in Jyväskylä as a co-operative venture between the Summer University of Jyväskylä and the Departments of Health Sciences and Psychology of the University of Jyväskylä. Six months later a similar programme was launched at the University of Helsinki, and today third age university program­mes are running at nine universities ( Jyväskylä, Helsinki, Tampere, Oulu, Kuopio, Joensuu, Turku, Rovaniemi and Vaasa). Third age university services are coor­dinated and developed by a national advisory board which was established in 1989.

The UTAs of Finland are all connected with the universities. In some cases the programmes are arranged jointly with the local summer universities or with local open colleges. Many UTAs arrange programmes in several towns, e.g. UTA Jyväskylä has lecture series in 8-10 towns in Central Finland and since 2001 also a group in Spain (Costa del Sol).

The UTA programmes have been extremely popular in Finland from the very beginning. The total number of participants in 2004 was 15 879 elderly people, of which 75 - 80 % are women. The average age of the participants is over 65 years, their basic education varying from primary level to tertiary. The vocational profile is also very hetero­geneous: there are retired teachers and factory workers, as well as health professionals, office staff, and many others. One of the typical reasons for participating in the programmes is, for instance, that these elderly people did not have a chance to study earlier in their lives, due to lack of financial resources, war, or some other external constraint.

General Principles

1. Universitas - Enlightenment for All
The guiding principle behind the establishment of the third age university was the historical, original concept of (the Humboldtian) university as an institution providing enlighten­ment to the people in a society. Growth of knowledge as a personal value and as a value for lifelong learning is considered here as an intrinsic part of fuller human existence and intellectu­al independence. The issues and content of what is being studied, thus, comes from the participants themselves, from their own interests. In this way the third age university reflects the original concept of university, but also offers an alterna­tive and modern view of studying for one's own individual purposes.

2. An Integral Part of the University
The National Advisory Board recognises that the UTAs in Finland are an official part of the university institution. This connection has also been acknowledged by the State, and in spring 1991 the Finnish Ministry of Education ratified the third age universities as part of open university operations in Finland. This, however, is only in name, because it is not yet possible to obtain a degree at the university of the third age. But it is possible for all open university students to get university credits (eg. in Philosophy, Sociology), by application to the university.

3. Co-operative Planning
The basic principle in designing programmes and other events at the third age university is co-operative planning. All operations are planned jointly by participating UTA students and academic staff.

4. No Age Limit - no Entry Requirements
There are no age limits for participation in the UTA activities. Nor are there entry requirements as to the educational level needed, and therefore, participants vary from retired citizens to students of developmental psychol­ogy, adult education, gerontology, etc., and other people somehow involved with work or activities that relate to ageing. In this sense the third age university is a meeting point for many age groups. Most of the participants are, of course, retired people living in their third age. (Laslett, Peter: A Fresh Map of Life. The Emergence of the Third Age. 1989).

5. Finance
Financing the activities of the third age universities is partly done through study fees (in Jyväskylä: 35 % of the expenses) that vary from 20 € to 60 € per term. In addition, a separate fee of about 20-100 € per term is charged for participating in seminars or computer courses.

At several localities the university itself shares the cost of financing UTA activities, with the exception of Jyväskylä, where the Municipality of Jyväskylä is a very important financier of the UTA (about 18 % of the expenses).

Nowadays an increasing part of the financing in UTA Jyväskylä comes through development work and projects like Geronet (http://kesayo.jyu.fi/geronet), which has been financed by National Board of Education and State Provincial Office of Western Finland.

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In Finland, as in other countries, programmes which are offered vary considerably from each other, both in context and realiza­tion. No standard model exists, and each university can develop activities according to their own preferences and needs. Activities organised depend largely on the "age" of the university and thus the oldest UTAs (Jyväskylä, Helsinki) have a greater variety of programmes than those which have been founded more recently. The main program­mes are: lecture series (in every UTA), seminars (especially UTA Jyväskylä), studying in old age homes (UTA Helsinki), research groups (UTA Jyväskylä, Helsinki and Tampere), computer courses (esp. UTA Helsinki and UTA Jyväskylä), students’ programmes and publicity work (esp. UTA Jyväskylä).


CASE UTA JYVÄSKYLÄ (University of the Third Age in Jyväskylä)

The Main Objectives are:

1. to sustain the physical, psychological and social condition of older people (and thus to prevent too early ailing ageing and diseases
2. to promote the equality of schooling between generations
3. to advance the dialogue between generations
4. to have a constant cooperation between the academic research in gerontology and the practical work with the aged
5. to give a concrete opportunity for lifelong learning also to the people after retirement
6. to correspond the present-day’s schooling demands of the elderly (e.g. computer skills)
7. to harness the seniors’ own resources for realizing the UTA programmes (planning, peer-tutor activities, emeritus-society)

The Main Activities in UTA Jyväskylä

Lecture Series
Lectures have mostly been of an multidisciplinary general study type, each concentrating on one theme of current interest. The subjects chosen are studied from as many viewpoints as possible. Lecture series are a central form of activity in all Finnish UTAs. In Jyväskylä the types of lecture do vary so that every second week there is a lecture concentrating on health and self care (with different subjects every time). Both lecture series are very popular. Every Wednesday there are 300-500 seniors in the greatest auditorium of the University of Jyväskylä. In spite of the big audience discussions after the lectures are usually very lively.

Seminars tend to involve small groups working together - the number of participants varies from 10 to 30 depending on the subject at hand. The studies are, in general, co-ordinated by academic staff.
In Jyväskylä seminars have been in the programme from the very beginning. During the first years started the seminar on Creative writing and Literature (1986) and the seminar on Researh (1989). In UTA the participants cannot get university degrees or credits but in the seminars they can work goal oriented so, that they prepare a report or anthology which will be published after the seminar.
To date seminars have been arranged on topics such as: Physical Exercise and Health; Health and Self Care; Human Relations; Social Conflict; the Life Cycle; Creative Writing and Literature; Social Studies; Art Appreciation, Cultural Tradition, Local History, languages and Biography Writing.

A seminar can also be a discussion group like “Seniors’ Wisdom –a Philosophical Circle”. Almost every year there can be some shorter seminars under a certain theme like “The Master Composers in Finnish Art of Music”. Some groups of creative work (Senior Choir and the Theatre of UTA Jyväskylä) work like seminars, too.

Publishing - see "research".
Except research seminars have also other seminars (eg. Literature and Writing, Tradition seminars) produced several publications in Jyväskylä, Helsinki, Tampere and Joensuu.

Students Programmes
Cultural trips (theatre, art exhibitions), travel groups (holidaying at home), international groups (the development of foreign con­tacts and networking) and study tours are good examples of these activities.

In Finland the development of research in this field is relatively new and is divided into two main areas. One of these is the research carried out by the UTA students themselves, in which a research seminar, based in Jyväskylä from 1989 - 1991, was a good starting point. The seminar focussed on carrying out sociological research. In the first research seminar fourteen people took part in the program­me, four of which started doing individual research. Subjects for the research were: "Voluntary work at an old people's home"; "The possibilities of community housing for elderly women"; "Intera­ction between a widowed mother and children" and "The image of old age conveyed by Römpän ukko" (the image of "Römpän ukko" was created by a Finnish cartoonist, Kari Suomalainen). Since then a reseach group has always been in the programmes of the UTA of Jyväsky­lä.

Research programmes have also been started in other UTAs in Finland like in Helsinki, Tampere and Joensuu.
Developing the function of the third age universities in itself requires research. In autumn 1991 a national research and development project was launched in Finland. The overall aim of this project was to study the third age university activities from the point of view of its profile and its "universi­tas principle", as well as the third age learning process as a conceptual, substantial and methodological issue. The project was sponsored by the Finnish Ministry of Education. The final report was ready in 1998. Several reports have already been published and also a presentation video which was made together with the UTA students in Jyväskylä, Helsinki and Tampere. The video is totally based on senior students' speeches. It is named "Good vintage - Percep­tions of Life and the Activities at the University of the Third Age in Finland".

Computer courses and the possibilities of new technology
In Jyväskylä and in Helsinki computer classes have become very popular. In Jyväskylä computer courses have been arranged since 1987.

In September 2000 started in Jyväskylä Geronet-project (http://kesayo.jyu.fi/geronet) which is sponsored by Finnish National Board of Education. Geronet's main aim is to introduce seniors to the ICT -world by developing a learning process which is the best possible for seniors. A great success has been tutor assistance as developed in Geronet. The training of the 40-50 peer tutors has been sponsored by the State Provincial Office of Western Finland.

In future, by­ diversify­ing the different possibilities to study - for example by making better use of distance-learning methods - we also want to facilitate the participation of those seniors who live away from the universities themselves. The UTA in Helsinki University has already had very good results on the use of distance-learning methods that have given even the people in old-age homes the possibility to study.

International Networking
Aging concerns all of us: the whole Europe is getting grey. This is why the international networks are so important. Three UTAs (Jyväskylä, Helsinki, Joensuu) are members of AIUTA (The International Association of the Universities of the Third Age). In addition UTA of Helsinki has been involved with EuroLink Age, UTA of Jyväskylä with LiLL (European Network Learning in Later Life) and another Socrates project called AEM (Adult Education and the Museum) and EuroWork Age - Older Workers Network.
In future international activities are pursued by participating in EU-projects in order to share good practises in educating the elderly.

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Developing research is an increasingly significant challenge in the future UTA activities. Development work, however, not only concerns research studies on later age study within a university institution. It also includes the development of the UTA students' own research activity, to which a university, as a physical and educational unit, provides a suitable in­frastructure and environment. At third age universities aging people themselves may develop research, theory and concepts in relation to old age.

Likewise, the third age university could function as a public discussion medium on old age and a kind of “bridge builder” and a catalyst between education, research and senior citizen and the practical social and health care of the local authority. For example, UTA can be a test group on the welfare technology and give statements as a real target group.

In Finland, the long-term strategy 2003-2010 of the third age universities was done by the national advisory board in 2002. In the strategy it is emphasized that the older people are a resource and they want to pass on their experience and knowledge to the benefit of the whole community. The UTA can act as one channel for putting this resource into more effective use by establishing databanks, the register of senior authority and mentor, organizing courses instructed by the seniors and increasing emeritus cooperation.

Just now UTA lives before great challenges when the amount of retired people will increase so that in about 5 years over 20 % of our population is over 65. It is said that people live longer and stay healthier and are also economically independent and wealthier than the previous generations.
Can UTA answer the learning needs of these seniors, too?

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20. September 2017, week 38, Varpu. (*)

Contact information

Summer university of Jyväskylä

P.O. Box 35 40014 Jyväskylän yliopisto, Jyväskylä Finland

Email: kesayo(at)jyu.fi

Phone:+358 44 760 3720

Staff and contact information