Affordable Lifelong Learning for Senior Citizens

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live ~ Mortimer Alder


Lifetime learning is a way for seniors to keep challenging ourselves mentally, to investigate new avenues along paths previously unexplored, and to stay engaged with the ever-changing world in which we live – and have some fun doing it! Going back to school after retirement is a whole different ball game than our first time around. Now, we WANT to go to class and we look forward to learning and we are not a pain in the side of teachers sending notes or talking during lectures – well at least not too much. And by interacting with younger students and faculty, some of that youthful exuberance tends to rub off on us and we are better for it.

We know the many benefits of maintaining a focus on learning for a lifetime:

1.    Keeps our minds active and our mental facilities exercised.

2.    Give us the opportunity to pursue in-depth an interest that we did not have time for the first time around or during our career.

3.    Facilitates social interaction, increasing confidence when dealing with others who have a shared interest.

4.    Instills a feeling of accomplishment as we ace those exams and become an expert in our field. If not an expert, at least we know more now than when we started.

5.    Provides an opportunity to learn new skills and generate some cash from the knowledge.

With so much to offer and with free time available to retirees, what can we do to take advantage of the opportunities that exist? What is out there to help us pursue our lifelong learning dreams?

Programs for Lifelong Learning

California State University (CSU) offers the “over 60 program” for senior citizens – with tuition waived for Californians 60 or older regardless of income. Lisa Krieger of the Mercury News writes about Timothy Fitzgerald, a 64-year-old who is completing his fifth degree at San Jose State University and his third master’s. No moss is gathering on Tim as he busily completes homework assignments and prepares for exams. Note that the enrollment does not come at the expense of younger students as seniors register after the regular students and if there is no room left, they do not get in.

What a great service. If you want to find what is available in your neighborhood as far as schools or libraries, offers a link that you can complete to see what is where. Different areas and institutions will have their own offerings so check them out.

We live in the Bay Area so I did some research and found a sample of programs offered by San Francisco State under their “Programs for Mature Learners”:

  • Eldercollege – this program gives people over 50 the opportunity to take any regular university course on a space available, audit basis with instructor approval. This program is offered during the spring and fall semesters. Participants have access to library and gym services without having to pay the usual university fees associated with these services. The cost of this program is $55 per semester.
  • Sixty-Plus – a self-governing group organized under the Institute on Gerontology. There are no prior academic requirements for membership. Meetings are every other week with speakers discussing a variety of subjects. Social events follow the meetings.
  • Over 60 degree program – enables people 60 years or older to earn a baccalaureate or master’s degree at SF State without paying campus fees.
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute – a community for baby boomers and seniors who enjoy the challenge, stimulation and quest for continued learning. Membership provides major discounts on course registration and events.

I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday – Abraham Lincoln

You may not have loved high school or you college may have been overwhelming. Possibly you exceeded everyone’s expectations and cruised through your education. Whatever the case, in retirement, you can CHOOSE to return to school where you can CHOOSE what you want to study. Grades do not matter. There is no competition to rank high in the class. This kind of learning can be FUN. If lifelong learning is your cup of tea, retirement is your invitation to pick it up and drink deeply.


Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to

5 thoughts on “Affordable Lifelong Learning for Senior Citizens

  1. Great article! Our local community college offers classes for those over 55 where you pay $20 and then take as many classes as you want to. They have all sorts of subjects from history to hobbies. I haven’t had a chance to take any classes but it’s on my list.

    Whether you go to a college to learn or take classes as the local rec center, it’s very important to keep learning new skills and keep those little pathways in the brain connecting!

  2. For those who can’t leave home for whatever reason, the on-line opportunities for continuing education are endless. ITune U has over 250,000 different courses, lectures, and video presentations. Colleges like your near-by Berkeley and even MIT have a large catalog of on-line courses, almost all of them completely free.

    Continuing to learn is critical to staying engaged in life.

    Another strong post, Dave.

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