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‘Aula de Mayores’: Seniors Going Back to School to Curb Depression

Rosario Pérez · Photos: Fran Montes

Aula de Mayores: “Going back to school should be prescribed by the health service, it is the best antidepressant on offer” | Campo de Gibraltar

In Algeciras, the ‘Aula de Mayores’ (‘Senior’s Classroom’) at the University of Cádiz together with the ‘Julia Traducta’ association offer university education for retirees, most of them women

“There are many good things about it, but the best thing without a doubt is that it gets you off the couch.” These are the words Manuel Ortiz shared with us at one of the Universidad Politécnica Superior classrooms in Algeciras.

Julia Traductora

By “it”, he means both the Aula de Mayores (‘Senior’s Classroom’) of the University of Cádiz (in which he is enrolling for a 2nd year as a student) and the student association Julia Traducta, founded in 2010 and that today, with 227 members, has become “the soul and powerhouse” of the Classroom, according to its current president Victoria Guerrero.

“If it weren’t for Julia Traducta, students would come to class three days a week for an hour and a half each day, for 3 years in many cases – 5 at the most – and then it’s over… However, the association allows for a coexistence that goes beyond classes, with shared activities such as excursions or meals, and for the alumni to be able to continue attending any subject as listeners, as long as there are free spaces, which there usually are.”

The subjects of the Aula de Mayores, a teaching activity of the University for those over 55 (whether they have had previous studies or not), are varied: Constitutional Law, Art History, the study of wine, Science, Computer Science …

Aula de Mayores University of Cadiz

Each subject is equivalent to ten master lectures but, despite the interest, the content is by no means the most important thing. “We learn something new every day, that’s for sure. But the best thing about coming to the University and dealing with professors and other students is what you get on a personal level,” says Rosa Barroso, vice-president of Julia Traducta and now a graduate. She adds that “it should be prescribed by the health service, because it is the best antidepressant there is.”

Her words were confirmed by other students, who agreed to share their experiences: José Luis Herrero, 3rd grade delegate; Antonio Selva, 5th grade delegate; and José Campos, 4th grade delegate who, after graduating from the First Cycle this years, decided he wanted to continue studying and embracing his retirement in this active way.

Each person has their own personal circumstances and not everyone who starts a cycle finishes it, but the average results are not bad at all: 25 graduates per year on average – mostly women – since 2007.

Aula de Mayores University of Cadiz

“The word ‘University’ is a bit scary, especially for those who have not been able to study when they were younger and think that they won’t be able to do it now. We encourage everyone to try it, for everyone to get involved according to their own capabilities. Here, nobody forces you to do anything, you don’t have to sit exams or anything like that. Only your attendance is valued, and for any missing classes to be justified, nothing more. There are all kinds of people here, though: those who get excited and bombard professors with questions, and those who prefer to just come and listen.”

With regard to the Julia Traducta association, which received the ‘Medal of La Palma’ in recognition of its work this summer, there has been an increase in activity in recent years; more conferences open to the public (the first of which was given by veteran journalist Rosa María Calaf back in the day), an improvement of administrative management and better information for members, with WhatsApp and Facebook groups that encourage participation. Insurance has been taken out for excursions and fieldtrips as we do with lunches and other social activities.

University of Cadiz

“You can’t imagine what this means to people in their 60s and 70s, who live alone or have been widowed, or who have children and grandchildren who live far away… people who did not expect to make new friends, and who now have more exciting plans than staying at home watching TV,” they tell us.

It’s enough to spend time chatting with them; to understand that yes, some things are simply priceless. These classes are probably one of the best antidotes ever invented against aging, loneliness and apathy.

Aula de Mayores: “Going back to school should be prescribed by the health service, it is the best antidepressant on offer” | Campo de Gibraltar

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