A 90-year-old Launceston woman will graduate with a PhD from the University of Tasmania this weekend.
Joan Webb, a qualified teacher, started her Masters in 2011 and finished it over two years, then went on to start her PhD in 2013.
She was initially unwilling to begin the last leg of study, but running classes at two aged care facilities soon changed her mind.
After teaching at a school for seniors in Launceston, Ms Webb decided to dedicate a short amount of time each week to visiting people who were not able to attend a school situation.
“I then went for what I thought would be a short time to two aged care facilities in the area, and I found it most demanding and fascinating and a wonderful experience,” Ms Webb said.
“There are people in high care who have lost a massive amount of their physical capacity, and still have the most amazing ideas and creativity within them.”
Ms Webb started teaching classes in creative writing at the aged care facilities in 2013, then moved into poetry because the shorter format was easier to get through with the residents.
Alongside her years of teaching in the United Kingdom and Tasmania, she counted this experience as among some of the best things she had done.
“It was the most exciting experience probably of my whole life,” Ms Webb said.
The title of Ms Webb’s PhD thesis — “I only look forward to Mondays”, Facilitating creative writing groups: Ageism, action and empowerment — came from a resident’s comment to her about how much the resident enjoyed the weekly writing sessions.
Ms Webb said she had a “whale of a time” studying, and would not have done it if it had been “some miserable thing I had to get through”.
She talks about her study as something that “controls” her, and a certain feeling of becoming addicted to the study after a period of time.
“It’s very easy to sit in an armchair, switch the tele on and throw your life away like that,” Ms Webb said.
“As you do it [study] and as you have this control, you get fascinated by the subject, and in the end you can’t put it down and you just want to go on and on.”