If you think you’re too old to learn, just ask Marion, 86

Open University graduate Marion Smith.
Open University graduate Marion Smith.

Age and failing eyesight have proved no barrier for 86-year-old Marion Smith, who got to grips with modern communication techniques like texting and blogging on her way to an Open University degree.

Despite suffering from macular degeneration – a medical condition usually affecting older people that results in the gradual loss of central vision – she signed up to study for an open Bachelor of Science degree with the OU.

Open University graduate Marion Smith.

Open University graduate Marion Smith.

Marion, who lives in Hemel Hempstead, originally took up words and music as one of her chosen subjects in a bid to try and combat the onset of her blindness and pursue her love of music.

But she had to rethink after struggling to adapt to the subject due to her lack of vision.

After adjusting her aims, she powered through and completed another four subjects over a five year period of home-based study.

These included European identity, the art of English, global politics and the environment.

She found that studying challenged her and opened her eyes to the development of English through texts and blogging.

She said: “It’s a good experience and one that people should try, however old they are.

“I enjoyed the stimulus of new things and understanding the modern world.”

Marion originally wanted to study to challenge herself while pursuing her love of learning and said it has been a fascinating experience.

The Open University offers interesting and varied ways of studying that are suited to all sorts of different people.

She feels this is a great opportunity for people who may have work or family commitments, as they can do it in their own time.

“Have a go – the Open University guide you through all the steps,” she said.

At her graduation ceremony at London’s Barbican Centre in London she mixed with the wide range of people of different ages and backgrounds who were recognised for their academic achievements.

Aside from studying, Marion offers a private counselling service and support to those who need it although she is officially retired.

‘Silver students’ are something of an OU speciality – former Euro MP Eryl McNally, 71, has also completed a degree. She said: “You are never too old to learn”.

The qualification is her third degree and this time she has managed to bag an impressive first class honours in psychology.

Eryl, who lives in Abbots Langley, said: “The OU is inspirational and I have met many students whose lives have been changed.

“I think I should have studied psychology before entering politics!”

Eryl was an MEP for Beds and Milton Keynes from 1994 until 1999 and as part of her work visited the Open University, which has its headquarters in Milton Keynes, several times.

To find out more about courses available through the Open University, email east-of-england@open.ac.uk or call 01223 364721.