A person I know has been teaching undergraduate students for about ~8 years. She has a master in science and she is ~41 years old. For personal reasons, she quit her job five years ago. She would like to return to academia by enrolling in a Ph.D. program.
In my opinion, the chances of getting a funded Ph.D. position is really low because she got her master ~13 years ago and she could not find such a position after applying several times. My question is that if she has a reasonable chance of a funded Ph.D. position in Europe or north America if she spends some volunteer time in a lab and publishes one paper? How realistic it is even to get a volunteer research work in a lab?
I should add that I have read several questions with regards to age and starting a Ph.D.. It seems the age is not important, however, in her case she already applied and failed to get even interview. Those people who have started a Ph.D. at a similar age might have paid for their study which is not possible for her.