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Growing Old Around the Globe

The world is ageing – people are older and societies are facing hard realities. What are we to make our lives in this time of global ageing? In six weeks, we analyze critical questions about age and ageing around the world.


Course at a Glance

About the Course

Growing old is discussed today in ominous terms – concerns about disease, dysfunction, and destitution are daily discussed by media and policy makers. What are individuals, families, communities and societies to make of an ageing world? We analyze contemporary topics in psychological and social ageing from a global perspective. Each week, we pose a question to be explored and discussed online. Participants are encouraged to contribute their experiences and perspectives as we create a global community to discuss age, ageing, and the science of gerontology in action. Participants will then compile a portfolio of materials they create and/or collect to address each week’s question and critically reflect their knowledge and experience throughout the course. Portfolios are then reviewed by peers at the end of the course to foster continued discourse among participants in our COURSERA community.

Course Syllabus

Week Zero: How do I critically appraise information about ageing?

Key Concepts:

  • Resources
  • Evaluation
  • Interpretation
  • Application

Week One:   What is ageing?

Key Concepts:

  • Biology and senescence
  • Psychological ageing
  • Social ageing

Week Two:   What is it to be old?

Key Concepts:

  • Familial and filial structure
  • Functional status
  • Social welfare/well being
  • Ageing in place
  • Longevity

Week Three:   What is an ageing society?

Key Concepts:

  • Ageing population (birth rate decline and longevity increase)
  • Elder dependency
  • Generativity
  • Gerontocracy
  • Gero-economics

Week Four:   What is it to age well?

Key Concepts:

  • Usual and successful ageing
  • Healthy ageing
  • Well being
  • Quality of life
  • Spirituality and ageing

Week Five:  What are the global implications of ageing?

Key Concepts:

  • Ageing workforce
  • Caregiving workforce
  • Migration
  • Public health
  • Public policy

Week Six:   What do ageing societies need to do to prepare for the future?

Key Concepts:

  • Human resources
  • Financial resources
  • Cultural precepts
  • Ethical principles

For the full syllabus, click here.

Recommended Background

No background in ageing or related fields is required. We welcome all participants for collaborative learning and dialogue on growing old and living in ageing communities and societies.

Suggested Readings

International Labour Union article on ageing societies: The benefits, and the costs, of living longer:

New Old Age Blog at NYT: 

UN Global Issues Ageing Overview and Related Links

WHO Health Topics Ageing:

Course Format

  • Video segments with expert commentary
  • Documentary video segments with field video from around the world
  • Live webcast discussion
  • Online discussion thread


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructors.

How do I contact the OldGlobe team? 
Please ask questions in our discussion forum at our COURSERA course site when the course is live.

What should I post to the OldGlobe Discussion Forum on COURSERA?
Please post comments and questions about course content to the COURSERA discussion forum. You will see that we start some discussions based on ideas we think are critical to our discussion. Please review the discussion threads carefully to see if your comments fit in an existing thread before starting a new thread.

What should I do with OldGlobe on Facebook and Twitter?
We maintain a Facebook page (or at!/oldglobecoursera) along with a Twitter account @OldGlobeMOOC to facilitate more personal reflections and submissions. Please consider using Facebook to connect with other OldGlobers in your area and to post photos and links relevant to the course discussion. You might want to Tweet observations and ideas pertinent to OldGlobe and our discussions. You can also post images on Instagram and video clips on Vine through Twitter too.

How will my participation be evaluated?
We ask that each participant who wishes to receive a Statement of Accomplishment create a portfolio of work that other participants will comment upon as the evaluation for OldGlobe.

May I participate in OldGlobe even if I don't want a Statement of Accomplishment or cannot participate as needed to complete the portfolio?
Absolutely! We welcome all participants to engage in dialogue with the OldGlobe Teaching Team and with other participants. Completing the portfolio to qualify for a Statement of Accomplishment is a decision that each participant makes based on her or his own learning goals.

When does OldGlobe end?

We will close the current session OldGlobe on 5 July 2014.

How can I learn more about other open online courses offered by the University of Pennsylvania?
For more information about Penn’s Online Learning Initiative, please go to: