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Dec 21, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Since 1983, over 70,000 universities for the elderly have cropped up across China. Students can choose from an array of topics like dancing, online shopping, English, and more academic courses. 

According to The Economist, these 70,000 schools have enrolled eight million students -- or just three percent of China's over-60 population. 

Competition is fierce and many schools have instituted lottery systems.

In an article in the China Daily on the subject, 63-year-old Wang Huizhen said, "These universities are so popular that many courses are booked within seconds of its release online. I had to stay awake till midnight when the online enrollment began just so I could get a place."

In her eyes, it is totally worth it. She enthused, "I feel that my passion for life has become stronger since I enrolled in the university. In fact, this passion is so strong that my friends have even said that I've turned into a completely different person who is always happy."

When these universities started, they were targeted at veteran Communist Party members, but now some schools are open to all. Most receive government funding and the average cost is about $31 per term.

The number of Chinese people over the age of 60 is projected to skyrocket from 241 million to 487 million, or nearly 35 percent of all Chinese citizens, by 2050. 

As such, the government wants to have one elderly university in every county by 2020.

Why? Educating seniors is both a practical and worthwhile endeavor -- it improves memory, combats loneliness, and demonstrates that learning is a lifelong virtue.

Learn more about studying in China.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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