Before the pandemic, the senior students enjoyed campus life. They would walk around the campus and meet new people before going to class, a daily exercise that had a positive impact on their psychological health.
Slim disputes the stereotype of the elderly as a burden on society.
“Older adults can be very active and dynamic, and they have a lot of experience and knowledge to share,” she said. “I am a student and at the same time, because of my previous experience in education, I was part of the curriculum committee that helped devise the university programmes.”
A Model for Other Countries
Jacques Ekmekji, a 76-year-old retired engineer, is back at the American University of Beirut 50 years after graduating. He enrolled in the University for Seniors two years ago at his daughter’s advice.
“It is a good and constructive way to fill a gap after retirement,” Ekmekji said. “It enlightened me about new topics which we usually don’t address in the engineering business, such as health, meditation, well-being, music and art.”
“The University for Seniors is a positive example of ageing that should be copied in other countries of the region,” he added. “Everyone is going to be a senior one day. It is good to know that there is something that would keep you going body and soul.”
However, Ekmekji has noted a gender imbalance among the programme’s participants.
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“The majority are women,” he said. “We have to change the impression that it is just for senior women. Men should be encouraged to join as well.”
For Geha, online classes and lectures helped her overcome the isolation and stress of the coronavirus lockdown. (See a related article, “Lebanese University Campuses Gradually Return to Life”.)
“It kept me busy in a useful and beneficial way. It boosted my self- confidence and self-esteem,” she said. “Besides, I have gained a new family. It is a full package that thrust me out of the living room.”