Sunday, March 20, 2011


Here's another personal encounter with age discrimination.

Early this month I heard that UniSIM was offering a Master of Gerontology course commencing this July. It was the first university in Singapore to do so. I was excited as for the past two years I had been looking for just such a course of study. A post-graduate degree in gerontology would definitely add credibility to my writings on Seniorsaloud, and open doors to new career opportunities.

As a strong advocate of life-long learning, I was eager to register for the course. Classes would be held on alternate weekends at the Clementi campus in Singapore. The modules covered areas that were familiar to me. The entire course could be completed in one and a half years. Students could start with the 9-month compulsory course leading to the Graduate Diploma in Gerontology. They could then decide whether to continue with another nine months of elective courses leading to a Master of Gerontology. The flexibility of the course structure suited me perfectly.

My Seniorsaloud card which I always refer to as my PASSION card.
The only hesitation I had was over the fees - S$15,408 for the Graduate Diploma, and S$30,816 for the Master degree. There was a 20% concession for applicants aged 60 and above. That would certainly help retirees thinking of registering for the course.

Then my mother had a fall.

I watched incredulously as the hospital bills kept escalating, and the savings kept dwindling. That started me on an online search for scholarships.

To my utter disappointment. I found that every foundation that offered post-graduate scholarships had a maximum age limit for applicants - not more than 30 or 35 years.

Age is a deterrent to older applicants for scholarships.
Fine, I can accept that companies consider scholarships as investments, and that it makes more sense to invest in younger people, simply because they can get more lifelong mileage out of a 30-year-old than a 60-year-old. But older students are more committed, and bring with them a wealth of life experiences that would contribute richly to the class dynamics and to the learning process. This is particularly so with gerontology - the study of the ageing process and the problems of the aged.

Sometimes, when you're older, you really have to go the extra mile to compete with the younger folks.
There shouldn't be a cap on upper age limit for scholarships just as there is no age limit placed on university admission. I am sure the members of scholarship selection committees are themselves in the 50+ age group. Surely they could be more supportive of older adults returning to school again. And haven't they heard that 60 is the new 40? Why must it always be about ROI?

I have at least a good 10 years of working life in me. At present, one in 11 Singaporeans is aged 65 and above. By 2030, it will be one in five. With the population ageing rapidly in Singapore and across the region, there is an urgent need for qualified gerontologists. I know I make a darn good one.

Click here to find out more about careers that involve a knowledge of gerontology. (Source: Mississippi State University)
The closing date for application is coming up on 31 March. I am applying the Law of Attraction and hoping that the universe picks up my request and respond. Who knows I might find a letter in my (e)mail box with an offer of scholarship or sponsorship for the Master of Gerontology course!

In the meantime, I shall resort to buying a lottery ticket of two...

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