In 2015, Doreetha Daniels received her associate degree in social sciences from the College of the Canyons at the age of 99 years old. She earned her degree because she wanted to fulfill a dream of getting an education and to “better herself.”
Gone are the days when learning was often thought of as something young people were obliged to do. Now we know that lifelong learning can be enjoyable and increase our sense of confidence and well-being. Further, it can potentially help keep us sharp and engaged as we age.
Amazing Free Learning Opportunities
Fortunately, we are living in an age when we have an abundance of opportunities to keep learning for free. I recently learned how to replace a sink faucet by watching a YouTube video. We can find basic instructions on how to do just about anything on YouTube. I’ve even started doing some acrylic painting along with some Bob Ross videos on YouTube. Other people I know have learned how to create crafts and cook new recipes using Pinterest. My 98-year-old neighbor told me that she likes to go on the Internet every day so she can learn something new. We can discover information on just about any topic imaginable because of the Internet.
Another lesser-known example of a free learning resource is a MOOC, which stands for a massive, open, online course. Basically, anyone, anywhere in the world can enroll in these online courses. Some are taught by Harvard and MIT professors. Whether you want to learn about some aspect of technology such as artificial intelligence or you want to study philosophy or literature, participating in a MOOC is one way you can do this. Learning may involve completing projects, watching videos, participating in discussions, and reading materials. There are different entities that deliver high-quality MOOCs.
Community Colleges for Personal Growth, Enhanced Skills, and Encore Career Preparation
Though not free, more people over 50 are turning to community colleges as a way to personally grow, to upgrade skills or to enter new fields. When I was still teaching at a community college, I had students who ranged from as young as 16 to as old as 81. In one of my classes, I had a woman in her sixties who announced that she was back in school to learn from her younger classmates. The other students in the class loved her. Whenever she couldn’t make it to class, some of her younger students let her know she was missed.
Over the years, I had older students in the public relations and speaking classes that I taught because they wanted to learn specific skills to go into business. Individuals 50 and older represent a rapidly growing demographic for new entrepreneurship. According to AARP, 3 in 10 entrepreneurs today are over 50.
I had one student in a public speaking class who was finishing his associate’s degree in a trade field. This student was 81-years-old. He said he planned to find a job or get another degree. While the institution where I taught didn’t have specific programs that catered to individuals over 50, younger students did respond well to working alongside older students.
Plus 50 Community Colleges Programs Designed for Older Adults
Fortunately, there is a natural recognition that a growing number of potential students are over 50 years old. One national program that helps support efforts to serve older students in community colleges is called Plus 50 Community Colleges. Grants are available for community colleges to develop programs that meet the needs of older adults who want to enter an encore career. Portland Community College is a Plus 50 school and offers a Gerontology Program for students wanting a career in the “rapidly emerging field of aging.” As noted on the program website, half of the students in the program are 50+.
To learn more about Plus 50 Community Colleges, check out this link. For individuals who are over 62, your local community college may provide a tuition discount—though there may be associated fees in addition to tuition.
It is Our Time
Finally, it is our time to learn all that we want to learn and to be whatever we want to be. We can explore, we can discover, and we can live our best lives. Let’s take full advantage of the opportunities that are now available to us. Happy learning, my friends!