The idea for the University for Seniors was conceived in 2008 after hearing concerns from older adults that as they were living longer and healthier lives, few outlets existed for them to cater to their intellectual and social needs. Nothing expressly for older people, stressing ‘learning for the pleasure of learning’ and creating a community of like-minded learners, existed in Beirut, or the region.
Educational and cultural programs for older people (called Universities of the Third Age; Institutes for Learning in Retirement; Elder Universities) are well established in many parts of the world, and are a great success. To find the best way for AUB to answer to this need, an extensive feasibility study was conducted between June 2008 and November 2009 consisting of focus group discussions, a survey of older AUB alumni, community meetings, and visits to successful programs in other countries. This process convinced the team at AUB that a University for Seniors would be enthusiastically welcomed in Beirut.
In Spring 2010, the University for Seniors was launched on experimental basis, where various activities were tested until Fall 2011 when the program became fully established with introduction of the membership concept.
Throughout this process, news about the new program spread by word of mouth and through a marketing strategy; our mailing list now includes 1485 subscribers and the number of participants in the program so far is 578.
Experts and aficionados on a variety of topics have offered study groups and lectures, all as volunteers. Enthusiastic members have participated in study groups, lectures, cultural travel programs and intergenerational activities under various themes:
- Arts: History of art in Lebanon, art of oriental carpets, opera appreciation, western and oriental music, Islamic art, great cities of the world, cultural geography of Provence, Andalusia and Tuscany, writing classes, poetry, and digital photography
- Healthy Aging: Heart Attacks prevention, first aid training, health maintenance for seniors, optimal aging, physical wellness guide to growing your health, good nutrition for a healthy life style, prevention of household accidents, safety and health evaluation, online quality health information and women’s health
- New technology: Social media, technology in health and medicine, computer literacy, and the iPad
- History and Politics: The Ras Beirut Oral history project, A history of modern Lebanon, from Antonius to Salibi: the breakdown of Sykes-Picot, and AUB’s role in the 20th century
- Finance and Economics: global financial crisis and Lebanon, personal investment, development economy in Lebanon, petroleum industry in Lebanon, Marketing and its influence on our life and personal budgeting
- Environment: Plant Identification walk at AUB
- Philosophy: Philosophy of religions, Intrinsic problems of politics
- Sociology: Sociology of Religion
- Architecture: Architectural history of Beirut's city center
- Cultural travel programs: Courtyard houses architecture in Damascus, Syria and Cultural splendors of Andalusia, Spain
- Reading evenings: Meet the Author and Open mic evenings
- Arabic book club: discussions with members and book authors
- Evening with the Profs: recent research from various AUB professors
- Smoke we see and Smoke we do not see
- The Cost of War study: an international effort to calculate the effect of violence on well-being.
- The new Arab Revolt: its causes and consequences
- Health Promotion and Community Health. Lebanon’s Landmark Tobacco Control Legislation: An Insider’s View”