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POLISH RETIREES RELISH RETURN TO STUDIES: Older Poles find respite from discrimination and marginalization by going back to school.

According to a new study, Cold-War thinking still links older Poles to the country’s devalued socialist past, and younger people are linked to Poland’s democratic future.

Nevertheless, universities of the "third age" have mushroomed across the country, promoting active aging and provide opportunities for older adults to:

  • learn new skills
  • cultivate hobbies
  • form new relationships, and
  • re-imagine their later years.

The findings reveal universities of the third age attract well-educated retirees: former teachers, accountants and medical workers. Over 80 per cent of attendees are women, who have been especially hard hit by discrimination.

These older learners choose from a variety of classes including:

  • foreign languages
  • cabaret groups
  • computer skills
  • volley ball, swimming, and
  • embroidery.

Social relationships trumps skills

For older learners, opportunities to extend their social network trumped opportunities to learn new skills.

Indeed, the study concluded the new relational ties touted by many older Poles may be as helpful in combating negative stereotypes of old age as are the practices of active aging.

For instance, "Jolanta," a widow and retired teacher, said the discovery of a "second family" through the University of the Third Age has changed her life.

Jolanta’s new family offers support, companionship and advice for coping with health problems. As a result, Jolanta now only finds time to visit her daughter in England during breaks in the University of the Third Age’s school year.

Jessica Robbins-Ruszkowski reported the findings online in Anthropology & Aging Quarterly (34, Vol. 2, 2013).



THE AGING BRAIN: If you think your cognitive abilities go into a steady decline as you age, research reported in the January 2014 issue of Topics in Cognitive Science may make you think again.

The study, led by Michael Ramscar, a linguistic researcher at Tübingen University in Germany, took a critical look at the measures usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood.

Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures, which date back to the early 20th century, are flawed models of how we learn in the real world.

The paper argues that the effects of aging on cognitive test results are mostly not the result of neural decay, but the consequence of knowing more stuff.

"The human brain works slower in old age," says Ramscar, "but only because we have stored more information over time."



AFRICAN GRANDMOTHERS SHINE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST AIDS: Over the past 30 years, 25 million people have died of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations estimates that there are 15 million children orphaned by AIDS.

They are being raised, overwhelmingly, by their grandmothers.

The grandmothers of Africa have played an extraordinary role in this major global tragedy, yet their access to health care and other resources is often limited.

Many Canadians support these courageous grandmothers through the Stephen Lewis Foundation. The foundation works with community-based organizations to educate communities about HIV preventation, and distribute food, medication and other necessities.

Established in 2000 in Ottawa, the African AIDS Angels project provides support at the community level for a number of orphanages, hospitals and hospices in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.



GREISHAM BECOMES A "SEATABLE TOWN": More than 1000 municipalities throughout the world have joined the WHO Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.

Greisham, a German community with a population of 28,000, has recently become a "seatable town" thanks to the efforts of Bernhard Meyer and his team at the Protestant University of Applied Science (Darmstadt, Germany).

Researchers found older citizens who were out and about in the town had three key needs:

  • meeting friends
  • being part of the community, and
  • taking a rest to recharge for the next part of their walk.

There were already benches in squares and public parks. But this did not solve the problem of older adults being able to walk to those places without a rest on the way.

Researchers created a map of the most frequented paths of older pedestrians. And the town installed seating furniture at older citizens’ favourite spots, such as the local cinema and other central points of interest.

Source: AARP International: The Journal 2014