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Student lectures for senior citizens: ‘You can learn a lot from other generations’

Connecting generations, reducing loneliness and slowing mental decline: these are goals of the Oud Geleerd Jong Gedaan foundation’s lectures, which are given by students. What is it like to be a student giving these lectures? And what do the seniors think of them?

The seniors meet on a Sunday afternoon at the Vliethuis community centre in Voorschoten. They have come to listen to the third lecture in the series ‘A New Perspective on China’. The lecturer is student Danique Nederveen, who arrives with a heavy bag full of Chinese literature. Danique is a third-year China studies student and gives these lectures as part of Oud Geleerd Jong GedaanThis foundation aims to promote a society in which lifelong learning is the norm, and thus organises lectures for seniors, given by students.

One goal of Oud Geleerd Jong Gedaan is to connect generations, and that was the very reason Danique volunteered. ‘Often people talk mainly to their peers, but you can actually learn a lot from other generations. This is an easy way to do so. It’s also a way for me to share knowledge about topics that interest me’, she says.

Seniors at Danique’s lecture

Danique clearly has a passion for Chinese language and culture. She has been learning Mandarin since secondary school, and during the lecture she flawlessly reads and translates a poem in Mandarin. Along with Chinese poetry, she talks about the history of Chinese literature, traditions and opera. She regularly asks the audience questions, for example about differences with Dutch culture that the audience notices. The participants are very engaged and ask critical questions.

Following the lecture, Danique sets out some books, which attract great interest. Several seniors have brought books of their own and are happy to chat for a while. One gentleman says he appreciates that China is being discussed. ‘People often have prejudices against other cultures, but you have to get to know a culture a bit before you can make sense of it.’

Next week will be the final lecture in the series, and the participants will learn to speak real Chinese. ‘If at all possible, I’ll come next week to speak my first words of Chinese. It’s really fun’, one participant exclaims.

Would Danique recommend this programme to other students? ‘Absolutely! It’s a lot of fun and it’s useful to acquire skills like presenting, public speaking and adapting your story to the reactions from the audience. That requires improvisation skills, and I’m getting better at that. It’s also great fun when people come up to speak to you afterwards. This really is a nice way of exchanging knowledge.’

Text: Nynke Smits
Photos: Monique Shaw

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