Seniors Benefit from Lifelong Learning

From my US News & World Blog

One way to boost our chances of a satisfying retirement is to consider continuing our education. Lifelong learning is a noble pursuit that will keep you engaged and challenged during your retirement years. Here’s why lifelong learning is beneficial for seniors:

[See The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012.]

1. We get to pick the topics we want to learn. In retirement, our educational choices are no longer dictated by the requirements to complete a degree. Now is the time to pursue those off-the-beaten-path areas that truly spark our interest. For example, I would love to learn more about reptiles, gold rush history, how to write a novel, and how to play the guitar. The beauty is that what I decide to learn is my personal choice.

2. We have the time. I think one of the biggest challenges of retirement will be how to stay busy during all of the free time we inherit. Lifelong learning fills those potentially empty hours with interesting and engaging challenges. And at the end of the day our newly found knowledge is something we can be proud of having spent our time on.

[See Forget Tuition: How Retirees Can Attend College for Free.]

3. Learning keeps us sharp. For retirees who no longer receive the stimulation that comes with a job and its challenges, it is easy to slow down and lose our edge. I found that within 18 months of my retirement test drive I did not feel as sharp when speaking with others. Learning and studying keeps the mind engaged and our thinking clear. Plus, we inevitably learn some interesting tidbits to share at social events.

4. Learning keeps us socially engaged. While we were in school as younger people, most of our circle of friends came from classmates and those we interacted with in the school environment. Going back to school as retirees can open new channels of interaction and introduce us to new friends inside and outside of the classroom.

[See The 10 Best Places for Lifelong Learning.]

Here is where you can find details on lifelong learning near you:

  • provides links to adult education options.
  • has a state-by-state listing of free or low-cost educational opportunities for seniors.
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are located on 116 college and university campuses and offer non-credit courses for those age 50 and older.
  • Many states offer tuition waivers to residents above a certain age at state-funded institutions such as the Over 60 Program at California State University East Bay.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.

Lifelong Learning fulfills Senior Citizens

As a youngster, I could not wait for the school day to end to get outside and play with my friends. In my mind learning was something I had to do while playing baseball or football was something I wanted to do.

Senior citizens are in a different ballgame where lifelong learning offers the rare opportunity to pursue exactly what they are most interested in. Where as in school we had to take many classes we were not remotely interested in, in lifelong learning we choose to study exactly what we are most interests us. The goal is not ultimately to earn a degree (although it could be) but instead to enjoy the experience of learning for what it is.

Lifelong learning offers a wide range of benefits and is a perfect avenue for some retirees in search of ways to keep busy in retirement life.

Read this week’s blog Seniors Benefit from Lifelong Learning to see if this makes sense for you and where to find details on lifelong learning near you.


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