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Need to be happy and content? Consider the benefits of lifelong learning

by Emily Koelsch | Contributor
April 23, 2020


Learning and teaching opportunities during retirement can be a great way to keep active, remain engaged, build new social connections and stay mentally challenged. From traditional universities to local community centers, there are many places that offer classes in a variety of subjects that are geared toward seniors. Whether you’re looking to teach a class or take a class, lifelong learning opportunities can be a great way to get the most out of your retirement years.

Lifelong learning is an excellent way to make sure that your mind and body stay active during retirement. Learning something new helps to keep your mind sharp and challenged. Additionally, taking classes during retirement keeps you socially active and engaged in your community.

At the same time, teaching classes can enable retirees to apply their career experience in a rewarding way. Just like taking a class, teaching a class or giving a lecture helps older adults stay active, challenged and connected. Plus, like taking a class, it offers a sense of self-enrichment and accomplishment.

Interestingly, for many retirees the greatest benefit of taking or teaching classes later in life is not the class itself, but rather the long-lasting social connections that these classes provide. Participating in classes, whether as a student or as a teacher, gives you the opportunity to meet people that share a similar interest.

The fact that some of these connections are with other retirees and some are with individuals in different stages of life only adds to this benefit. It’s a great way to get out in your community and to meaningfully connect with others who share at least some of your interests.

Psychiatrist Janet Taylor notes that people who continue learning during retirement are the happiest and most content. This is in part from the social connections and the mental challenge and in part because doing so helps you to stay curious and feel a sense of accomplishment for learning a new skill, learning about a new topic or pursuing something you’ve long been interested in but haven’t previously had the time to pursue.

Where can retirees take classes?

If you’re interested in finding classes, the good news is that there are many locations that offer classes specifically geared toward adults 50 and over. Whether you’re interested in taking a class in anything from history to woodworking to cooking to fitness, there likely are offerings in your area. When looking for a course, here are some places to start:

Colleges and universities

Many traditional colleges and universities have programs catered toward older adults. Some allow adults over 50 to audit classes for free, while others offer reduced fees or scholarships for adults to either audit classes, take them for credit or work toward a degree.

Similarly, many community colleges across the country also have programs specifically geared toward adults over 50. These programs often have a wide range of class offerings with minimal costs and fees.

Family celebrating graduation of senior graduate

In addition to enabling retirees to enroll in or audit classes, many universities have partnered with the Osher Institute to offer courses specifically for older adults. Founded in 2001 by Bernard Osher, Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes offer classes for adults 50 and over. All courses are non-credit, with no grades and no assignments – the institutes pride themselves on being for people that are “interested in learning for the joy of learning.” Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are currently at more than 120 universities in 49 states. The courses are often taught by volunteers and have minimal fees.

There are online courses galore

If you don’t have access to classes nearby or if you’re not able to get to classes, there are many courses available online. Quite a few top universities have courses available to audit online for free. Plus, more and more colleges have YouTube Channels where you can access lectures and courses for free. For example, Harvard has hundreds of lectures and videos that are available on its channel. You can even select playlists on a particular topic to hear an array of clips or lectures on the topic.

Also available for free are podcasts that offer lectures that you can download and listen to at any time. Open Culture has compiled resources from top colleges and universities to give you access to hundreds of lectures from one location. Video Lectures, Academic Earth and Khan Academy are more resources that offer free access to a wide variety of quality courses and resources.

Community centers

In addition to some more traditional places of learning, you can find classes at many less traditional locations throughout most communities – from libraries to senior centers to community centers. The Oasis Institute, for example, was founded to offer “healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles, and volunteer engagement.” With centers in more than 40 cities, the Oasis Institute offers classes for seniors in a variety of topics from art to technology to fitness.

Additionally, many public libraries offer book groups, lectures and mini courses. Finally, many local senior centers or community centers offer courses in everything from gardening to learning a new language.

A few links to help you find a course:

Resources Location
ResourcesOshere Institutes for Lifelong Learning LocationAt colleges and universities
ResourcesOasis Institute LocationAt Oasis centers across the country
ResourcesOnline courses from universities LocationCompiled online by Open Culture
ResourcesKhan Academy LocationFree online classes
ResourcesPodcast lectures from universities LocationCompiled online by Open Culture

Are there opportunities to teach courses?

Teaching a course can also be a great way to utilize experience, challenge yourself, and get connected in your community. The Oasis Institute provides a good opportunity to teach, as classes at these centers are run primarily by volunteers. Similarly, many of the courses at Osher Institutes are taught by volunteers as opposed to professors.

If you’re interested in teaching a course, check out the locations in your area that offer classes for seniors. Many are looking for experts in a variety of fields to either give a lecture or to teach an entire class. As a result, getting connected with these places can be a great way to find a course you’re interested in and to find a place to share your knowledge.

If you’ve been interested in learning about a new topic or have always wanted to go back to school, retirement might be the perfect time for it. With more and more opportunities geared toward adults over 50, you don’t have to feel like you’ll be out of place on a college campus or that you’ll have to spend a lot of your retirement funds on tuition. Instead, there are many courses available that are free or have limited fees and that are geared toward you.

To get started, check with colleges, universities and libraries in your area. They should either have courses available or be able to direct you to places that do. Lifelong learning is a great way to stay active, enriched and connected during any stage of retirement, so now is the time to pick a topic and find a course near you.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company. Our financial planners and retirement income certified professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and help you to achieve your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.

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