WHAT’S UNIVERSITY AND HOW IT WORKS
The university for seniors in Vicenza tried to answer to purposes of improving the active and creative social insertion of people who leave job and want to get back into the social life after a period of absence. The word ‘senior’ is assumed with the meaning of ‘the person who’s got experience’ and therefore he has something to communicate: it means university is going to study in depth the being more than the making, life more than technics, the roles concerning human conditions more than technical abilities. So the culture university decided to develop from the beginning was neither elitist nor specialized, even if the speech was not going to be on a vague level.
The university intended to keep some essential points: a) thinking on background and on present situations to catch the meaning and the opportunities of growth; b) making new friends improving interpersonal and social relationships, to stimulate a dynamic behaviour with important social results; c) increasing personal abilities for a creative action inspired by human values.
From these remarks it turns out that our university doesn’t treat the senior like a little pupil who has to be brought up: life has enriched his mind with knowledge, life has marked him out. If he is now feeling fragmentariness and historical discontinuity and meaningless of his background, he needs helping to rebuild some links he missed because of a long and overwhelming immersion in the productive world; he needs helping to get back the meaning of things and of himself, to realize how much he contributes to everybody’s sake. There is no need to stuff him with information or to give an answer to all his questions still not given: he may experience a further sensation of uneasiness and powerlessness. It’s essential to offer him institutions as a sorce of information and updating, together with the recovery of personal identity and remotivation, strengthning attitudes and skills. Everything should aim to guide the senior to be leader of his own culture route and later a citizen like everybody, with something special to give the others.
The purposes of Vicenza institution have been set down according to so far said. To sum up, the university for seniors has been decided to give back the participants, within a short period of time, consciousness and a new ability of role, starting from the resources of their age. At the same time, through researches, in the tradition of our university, we were going to offer our citizens a suitable knowledge and a new way to consider elder people as an effective part of society.
From the beginning the university in Vicenza has chosen a rather definite method and organization. First of all we have tried not to cut seniors out: so we have not put age limits to attend lessons; we have let enrolled members attend other courses and seminars and, over all, we have considered the university the way to an effective social insertion through a definite three-year schedule. In the second place, considering that each senior is qualified by experience, we have not required any educational qualification for enrolment. Although we are going to confer a certificate of merit after five years of frequency, we have done our best so that the certificate wasn’t going to be a target in itself, but only a recognition of a journey done. In the third place we have foreseen some ways of conveying the participants through common choises and activities in small groups (seminars): guided research, exercise of creativity and study of languages. In the fourth place, through periodical meetings with animators and teachers, we’ve worked out an inductive and most effective methodology. Lessons are always followed by a wide discussion and seminars are carried out by the participants themselves, with the presence of an expert animator. In the fifth place we’ve avoided an encyclopaedic planning because vague useless as it regards purposes: so we’ve preferred some widening areas together with stimulating activities.
According to these lines the plan af studies has been organized into four cultural areas: biological and physical sciences, anthropological and social sciences, history-arts-literature, countries with their culture and religion.
To these studies we have added seminars of different subjects: literature-arts-music, historical sociological and geographical research, language learning.
A varied rich series of complementary activities have fulfilled our cultural proposal: study tours, film discussions, art exibition, debates, etc…
The programme covers five years, from October to May. Each year is divided into three periods of two months. The activity occurs in the afternoon and sometimes in the morning.
To sum up these quick hints of our experience revision, we dare say that the feeling of membership to this institution is strictly cultural, with no place for emotivity or for closed groups.
It seems that the participants have often found in the university a new consciousness of their own role: it’s a real proof that our model is valid.