People & Values
facts & figures

Lifelong Learning

Demographic change is beginning to affect German universities as well. The current course at the “Universität des 3. Lebensalters” (“University of the Third Phase of Life”) is devoted to aging in science and experience. This education center at Goethe University Frankfurt is geared toward elderly students. Thirty-five years ago, it became one of the first universities in Germany to open its lecture halls to knowledge-hungry senior citizens.

The percentage of non-degree students who are 60 or older in Germany

The range of courses on offer is now as diverse as the number of colleges and universities in the country. The easiest way to attend a university as an elderly person in Germany is
as a non-degree student. Such students attend selected lectures and seminars but are not eligible to take
exams. All in all, around 34,800 non-degree students were enrolled at German colleges and universities
in Winter Semester 2015/2016. More than half of these students were 60 years of age or older.

Popular topics of study among senior citizens are history, philosophy, and economics. Although anyone with an abitur diploma is eligible to study at a university in Germany to earn a degree
that qualifies the holder for a job or profession, few elderly people choose to do so. In Winter Semester
2014/2015, only 0.2 percent of the regular students had reached the retirement age.

Like Goethe University Frankfurt, several other German universities are offering a customized senior citizens’ program in which participants receive a certificate upon completing a term paper after approximately four semesters of study. One reason why the universities want to separate old and young students is that the senior citizens might compete with the young students for seats in the lecture halls.

What Do You Expect from Old Age?

Johanna Uekermann, National Chairperson of the Young Socialists

I expect everyone to benefit from a just pension system by then: a system that doesn’t pit young against old, but instead creates social equality and eliminates old-age poverty.

Tom Cridland, entrepreneur and fashion designer

I will simply look at my age as a number, because I doubt very much that my zest for life will diminish in any way. On the contrary, I look forward to growing old in the company of my family.

Shida Bazyar, author of the novel Nachts ist es leise in Teheran

I would love to be able to look back on these politically turbulent times and think: We warded everything off very well. My worry is that we won’t be able to say that.

Sven Schmidt-Rohr, CEO of the startup ArtiMinds

Over the next 50 years, we will experience a technological and social revolution such as last occurred between 1870 and 1920. Our generation can’t even imagine what life will be like when we are old.

Samba is an expression of pure passion. However, it also means hard work for traditionalists



Samba celebrated its centenary in November of last year. That the dance has managed to remain popular for so long is mainly due to the efforts of Velha Guarda

Samba has undergone many changes during its history and has been subject to a wide variety of influences. One of the reasons for its popularity is that there have always been some musicians who are inspired by its traditional roots. In the 1960s, for example, attitudes at the samba schools and carnival societies in Rio began to change so that tradition and experience were once again in demand.

This also increased the importance of the elderly members, because the old-timers obviously knew more about samba than anyone else. That’s why the Velha Guarda (“Old Guard”) was established at the time in order to bring former samba dancers, musicians,
and singers together so that the wealth of carnival traditions could be preserved. The aim was to preserve the roots of samba for the future and to transport its historically evolved values into the various communities.

Age plays a major role for the “Old Guard.” To join it, a person must be over 50 years old and must have been an active member of a samba school for at least the last 25 years. In order to ensure the success of their tradition-focused mission, the elderly members actively take part in the schools’ administration and advise the various committees by drawing on their wealth of experience and expertise.

In recent times the Velha Guarda has become so wellknown that some of its members also perform “old school” samba in front of international audiences in countries such as Austria and Germany.

General Information about the Carnival in Rio

At the Wheel

Driver’s license with expiry date

Whereas elderly drivers in Spain can only renew their license after passing a medical, Germans have rejected such checks. By contrast, some states in the USA allow even 14-yearolds to drive a car, if accompanied by their parents.

3 questions for

Christiane Feuerstein

“Good architecture is integrative”


Our society is getting older and older. What implications does this have for architecture?

Good architecture is integrative, promotes social inclusion, and creates spaces that have sensual qualities and that can be effectively used by everybody, no matter what their age. Short paths and easily accessible surroundings enable even people with impaired mobility to move about on their own.


What’s new about intergenerational concepts?

They combine the various facilities that are available in a person’s immediate neighborhood: cafés and shops as well as
infrastructure such as adult daycare centers and kindergartens— all of them embedded within a neighborly environment. Community initiatives, neighborhood networks, and shared households enable residents to give as well as to receive.


How can this be implemented in practice?

This can be done in the planning phase by developing models
that make it easier to network urban planners, architects, building societies, and healthcare providers with one another, and in the implementation phase by using appropriate operating
and administrative concepts.

Christiane Feuerstein

is an Austrian architect and author of the book GenerationenWohnen (Detail Verlag)


35 percent of the people over 45 in Germany can imagine serving as childminders for other people’s children