The First University of the Third Age

Pierre Vellas

  The creation of the University of the Third Age of Toulouse was proposed in February, 1973, to the Administrative Council of the Teaching and Research Unit. This was made up of representatives of the professors, the students and the administrative staff, with three external members with important international responsibilities: the deputy Directors-General of the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and UNESCO.

The aim was to investigate through experience and without any preconceived notions, what the University could do to improve the quality of life of the elderly, who would be more and more numerous in the future. This programme had a very unusual character. Nevertheless, it was adopted unanimously, although without any specific budgetary means, by the Council.

Four major objectives were retained:

  1. To contribute to raising the level of physical, mental and social health and the quality of life of older people This included physical training, mental activation, opening up to today's society, social relationships, knowledge of one's roots, artistic creativity and helping others.

  2. To provide a permanent educational programme for older people in close relation with the other age groups. This would include music, art, folklore, poetry and theatre as well as academic subjects.

  3. To initiate research into age issues.

  4. To set up education programmes in gerontology for present and future decision-makers, including Community Information Programmes to promote the awareness of age issues in each person in our society.

The UTA programmes have had a great deal of success around the world. This shows that they correspond to a deeply felt need in a society, which for the first time in the history of humanity, is an ageing society.

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