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Free University Courses for Seniors Citizens and Grandparenting

Updated on April 10, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

The Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University was formerly the site of the local armory. The current architecture includes some of the same features.
The Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University was formerly the site of the local armory. The current architecture includes some of the same features. | Source

Senior Citizen Heroes

Professor, astronaut and former US Senator John H. Glenn, aged mid-90s, teaches regularly next door to the above arts and theater facility.

Lifelong Learning for Ages Pre-K to 100

The Recession of 2008 -2010 lent impetus to the re-forming of the extended family in America, replacing the nuclear family and bringing together scattered singles. Previously, almost everyone who was able to afford a place to live was living in their own house, apartment, or condo.

In the 2000s Ohio Welfare Reform, for example, began to require young single mothers receiving cash benefits to move back home with the child's grandparent(s) in order to retain those and other benefits. If they did not move back home, then their income was cut.

The Great Recession, national mortgage catastrophe, and national climate disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes caused many job losses, housing losses, and the gathering together of multiple people and families under one roof.The extended family gained importance as a means to survival. in the 200s and 2010s.

Surely, parts of America looked as if they were in The Great Depression once more. Education among the generations living together is quite important.

All of these developments had led to some families seeing children start Kindergarten as the grandparents or great uncles and aunts simultaneously begin new classes at The Ohio State University in Program 60.Other universities and colleges nationwide have similar programs.

Program 60 is a system in which senior citizens that are residents of Ohio and ages 60 or older may attend a selected menu of college classes at no tuition fee.

These seniors do not need even to be high school graduates, but can benefit from many practical courses. These courses include foreign languages and a number of others that are useful to 21st Century living.

Program 60

Program 60 is a system in which senior citizens that are residents of Ohio and ages 60 or older may attend a selected menu of college classes at no tuition fee.

Parking passes, books, and incidentals still require payment if attending Program 60 and the older students receive no actual course credit, but they receive the education provided and do not need to take the exams, unless they wish to do so. If they desire the actually credit, they can pay the required fees and receive it.

For some families, it is a treat all around when the Kindergartner can accompany a Grandpa or Grandma or Great Aunt to a university class for a day. They can do homework together.

Such a relationship can build curiosity and encourage the child to enjoy school throughout K-12, even to promote the idea of pursuing college and specific careers. It shows the child that learning need never end and that each person has the opportunity to stay active until the very end of life.

I recall as an 8-year-old wondering briefly why a neighbor was attending business school at age 70, and then I thought, Why not? I like school - why should she not, if she's allowed to go? Somehow, I had believed that older people were not permitted to attend a school of any kind.

Years ago, I did an intergenerational learning project with my second graders and seniors at a nursing home. Those seniors brought out the very best in my students - their best writing, best singing, best art work, best behavior.

— Anonymous; Edutopia, 3-8-2009

Only Seniors Can Contribute Certain Information to Education

A Living Repository of History
A Living Repository of History | Source
Fool's Gold; FeS2; alexfurr
Fool's Gold; FeS2; alexfurr

Seniors Remember Fool's Gold, FeS2

Senior citizens make valuable contributions in the college classroom, adding true experiences from history that might predate those of the university professors and are surely not in the textbooks. For instance, how many today know that during the 1964 Presidential Campaign, Democrats wore a badge with the chemical formula for Fool's Gold in objection to Barry Goldwater's GOP nomination?

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

A sociological phenomenon in Ohio and elsewhere in the United States is the proliferation of the skipped generation grandfamily.

Skipped-Generation Grandfamilies

A sociological phenomenon in Ohio and elsewhere in the United States is the proliferation of the "skipped generation grandfamily" as a family unit among the diversity of definitions and forms of the American "family." In this sort of family, grandparents are raising grandchildren or grandnieces and -nephews.

While this has occurred in previous generations, the phenomenon is receiving more media focus and government funding assistants through programs designated for Grandparent Caregivers, Grand Parents and a number of other tags provided by the results of grant applications.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Public schools, recreation centers, community/adult learning centers, and public libraries are hosting these grandparent mentoring programs in order to help senior citizens provide education and entertainment for the children while promoting bonding opportunities between senior and child; and even public health information and benefits.

Additional food is offered in some programs, with referrals for food sources other resources. These programs also offer support to the grandparent to help prevent burnout and excessive stress. Respite care that provides a getaway for the children for a weekend is also sometimes available, lessening the load and providing a sort of mini-vacation for the senior.

Family literacy programs are attached ot many libraries, schools, and even healthcare clinics; and seniors in charge of children or youth often participate with their charges. Sometimes their own literacy improves and sometimes, they decide to volunteer in the program to help other grand-and -other families.

I was fortunate to witness all of this in the family literacy program I installed at the center in which I worked and supervised for a dozen years. We also had an effective public health nurse on site who stayed alert to signals that these families needed help in any way. The overall program was one we wished could have continued indefinitely.


Intergenerational Roles

Ms. Patricia H. Holmes, Ohio State University Extension Agent for Preble County, has discussed the positive roles of grandparents in a family.

The roles Ms. Holmes believes grandparents can play effectively include:

  • Family Historian and Living Ancestor
  • Nurturer
  • Mentor
  • Role Model
  • Playmate
  • Wizard - Like "Gandolf"
  • Hero - Think "Stan Lee" and Spiderman

With so many roles possible, grandparents can encourage a number of learning adventures in their grandchildren.

Grandfamilies and Federal Help

US Census Data on Grandfamilies and School

From the US Census Bureau 2005-2007 American Community Survey:

  • Many of children living in a grandfamilies are age 11 or younger.
  • 42% of these children are ages 12 - 17, while 58% are 11 or under.
  • 1/3 of the children live with incomes below the poverty level; double the child poverty rate in parent-child families. They can use some help of various kinds, including mentoring, education, and activities that involve both their grandparents and themselves.
  • About 1/3 of these grandparents have not completed high school. Family literacy and school-based grandparent mentoring activities can help the entire family, without embarrassment.

These statistics do not bode well for grandparent caregivers to take advantage of programs such as OSU's Program 60, but family literacy programs and grandfamily mentoring programs in other facilities do often help.

73-Year Old College Basketball Star

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS


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