Public health studies have shown that meaningful social engagement has a positive effect on the physical and psychological health of older adults. In 2007, the AUB Neighborhood Initiative learned from interviews with residents of Ras Beirut that opportunities for older residents were strikingly limited, with few occasions to leave their homes, too little mental stimulation, and virtually no opportunities to give back to their communities. In response, Cynthia Myntti, leader of the Neighborhood Initiative, and Abla Sibai, a Public Health scholar and expert on aging, joined forces to create an educational and cultural program at AUB designed with and for older adults, one that satisfies their aspirations and responds to their needs.
In 2010, following an extensive feasibility study
, AUB’s University for Seniors or جامعة الكِبار was born. The University for Seniors is a pioneering program, under AUB’s Continuing Education Center, that addresses the aspirations of many older adults to remain intellectually challenged and socially connected. The program aims at creating a new and positive image of aging in Beirut, Lebanon and the Middle East: one that offers visible proof that engaged aging is possible in the Arab world, and that it contributes to healthy aging.
The University for Seniors rests on three unique guiding principles:
- peer-learning (seniors learn from one another rather than from a paid professional instructor)
- community building (one joins a community rather than pays for one-off activities)
- intergenerational connections (seniors have multiple opportunities to connect with AUB faculty and students)