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NU-AGE: An innovative module to learn more about ageing

Newcastle University is internationally renowned for its research about ageing. However, much of this pioneering activity is focussed around our research laboratories and hospital facilities – students from humanities or engineering backgrounds are less likely to have the opportunity to learn about ageing, or to consider why it might be relevant to them.

"A team of volunteers, recruited from VOICENorth, have been with us every step of the way"

We believe that ageing is relevant to students from any academic background – from history to business to computer science, many of our graduates will go on to work with older people and will benefit from understanding more about ageing and the needs of older people. With this is mind, we set up a new module about ageing – Newcastle Ageing Generations Education (NU-AGE) – to be available to students from any course across the university. Our aims were to:

  • demonstrate the relevance of ageing in the modern world, with examples arising from a range of disciplines including health, engineering and the arts
  • emphasise positive concepts relating to ageing such as “Ageing well”, the maintenance of health, and anti-ageist approaches to public engagement
  • facilitate interaction between students and older people and create opportunities for co-learning
  • raise awareness of the different ageing related research currently being undertaken at Newcastle University in all three faculties
  • encourage students to consider potential topics for future research around an ageing related theme

A fundamental part of designing and delivering our module has been engaging older members of the public. A team of volunteers, recruited from VOICENorth have been with us every step of the way, involved in the development our original idea, right up to taking part in the teaching and assessment of students on the course. Many of the teaching sessions are also open to an audience of members of the public, with students and older people learning together.

In 2015, 25 students completed the module, and further 30 are due to submit their final assessments this summer. Feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive, largely due to the evident benefits of being able to interact with our volunteers:

"I really enjoyed having a chance to interact with the Voice North members and get their opinions on things."

We hope to continue with this model of bringing older people together with our students to learn from each other about the positive aspects, and the challenges of growing older in the 21st century.

Dr Ellen Tullo
Lecturer in Ageing And Education
Biomedical Sciences, Newcastle University

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