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Does Your Grandma Tweet? (If Not, This School Will Teach Her How)

By Mayssa Nahlawi

“We didn’t grow up with computers in our youth; now I’m using Twitter and Facebook,” observes Toufic Balaa, a Lebanese senior (as in senior citizen) enjoying a course on social media at the University for Seniors. “UfS” is run by the American University of Beirut and offers students 50 and over a brilliant way to age actively and become lifelong learners. 

Life expectancy in Lebanon is 72.5 years, and people aged 50 and over make up 20 percent of the population, one of the highest percentages in the region. Many are retirees, and others live alone, giving them a lot of time on their hands. AUB’s program keeps them actively developing their interests—a vital benefit, given that staying busy has been proven to prevent mental and physical diseases among the elderly.

UfS is the brainchild of Cynthia Minti and Abla Sibai, both professors of public health at AUB. Launched after completion of a pilot study in Beirut that drew on similar American and European programs, the Lebanese version offers an abundance of educational and cultural opportunities to older students aspiring to increase their intellectual and social engagement. Its popularity continues to grow, with registration now topping 100 students aged 50 up to 86.

For more info – University for Seniors’ website

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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