Ninety-year-old Mrs Prendergast enrolled in an Ageing course at the University of Melbourne and on Saturday received her Master’s degree.
Her effort is made all the more remarkable by the fact that she completed her course online with- out having to leave Bairnsdale.
With the assistance of staff at the university, Mrs Prendergast quickly rose to the occasion on mastering the technology and sailed through her studies, completing 10 units part-time over three years.
A former librarian, her interest in studying Ageing was piqued by the realisation that music therapy had a calming effect on dementia patients and helps them recall memories of earlier days.
“Dementia is a serious problem which is growing at a rapid rate,” Mrs Prendergast said.
The statistics speak for themselves.
In Australia, almost 450,000 people are living with the disease. Mrs Prendergast said when she turned on the ABC and the Catalyst program relayed a story about how music helps those with dementia, she knew instantly that was what she wanted to do.
Having noticed how her late husband had responded positively to music, Mrs Prendergast felt inspired to do more research and her studies in Ageing gave her that capacity.
She says there’s a school of thought that believes music therapy could complement antipsychotic drugs that are often given to dementia patients to keep them calm.
Recently there’s been criticism that drugs are used to control those suffering from dementia.
Mrs Prendergast says music therapy (commonly known as reminiscence therapy), is much less costly and doesn’t have the side effects of drugs that can contribute to patients losing their balance and falling over.
She would like to see policy-makers and governments make funding available for every nursing home in the country to have a music therapy program.
Mrs Prendergast says people living at home with dementia can also enjoy music by listening to a playlist of personal music on an iPod.
She also wants the universe to know that it’s never too late to learn.
PICTURED: Lorna Prendergast mastered technology and completed a Master’s degree online at the age of 90, demonstrating it’s never too late to learn.