How to Keep Your Education Going In Retirement
March 3, 2015 | Enjoying Retirement
People approaching retirement today are faced with an entirely different reality than previous generations. With life expectancies on the rise, instead of winding down, many retirees are gearing up for a whole new chapter. For some, the next phase of life may include exploring educational opportunities.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, higher levels of education appear to be somewhat protective against Alzheimer’s. The Association recommends staying “curious and involved” and committed to lifelong learning. Other benefits of education in retirement include increased socialization and the opportunity to make new friends and integrate into a community. This can be especially essential to people who relocate after retirement.
Here are three ways to take part in educational opportunities in your golden years.
In the Classroom
Retirees interested in learning something new can participate in classes at a variety of locations nationwide. One such program is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which partners with 119 universities and colleges across the country to offer a variety of non-credit programs for people 50 and older.
“The generation retiring now has 15 to 20 years longer to enjoy after finishing work than their grandparents did. We are seeing people reinvent retirement,” says David Blazevich, senior program officer with the program’s founding organization, The Bernard Osher Foundation. He added that seniors can take anything from single lecture classes to 13-week, full-semester courses in a wide variety of subjects.
Retired faculty and subject-matter experts teach OLLI classes, and prices are designed to be reasonable. “We want our programs to be accessible to people from diverse backgrounds,” says Blazevich. “There are no prerequisites; it is just all for the joy of learning.”
Of course, OLLI isn’t the only opportunity for retirees looking to return to school. If you’re looking for courses in your local area, use the term “lifelong learning” in your search engine and you’ll easily locate options close by.
On the Road
For some, returning to education in the classroom isn’t enough. If you have a stronger taste for adventure, you can explore opportunities that marry education with travel experiences. Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) runs all-inclusive tours, each with an educational component, to all 50 states and 150 countries for people 40 years old and up. There are 5,500 to choose from in a variety of activity levels.
“A few years ago I went on a tour to Cuba that was titled ‘Shalom Cuba’ because we focused on the Jewish community there,” says Stacie Fasola, associate vice president for public and media relations with Road Scholar. “Once we got to Havana, we had guides take us to schools and synagogues and into the homes of Jewish families. We listened to lectures on the history of Jews in Cuba and came away with so much knowledge.”
There are myriad other options for retirees looking to combine travel with learning—one of the more unusual is Semester at Sea, where you can attend class aboard a ship while sailing the world. Many universities also offer lifelong learning and study-abroad opportunities for seniors, including Tufts Travel-Learn Program and programs by Lipscomb University.
Education doesn’t have to be all get up and go. If you’d rather study from the comfort of your own home, there are many free classes online available through a variety of institutions. Organizations like FutureLearn, Khan Academy and Coursera are good places to start your search.
Choosing the Right Program
With so many different choices, what is the best way to decide which option is right for your situation?
“The easiest thing to do is to think about what you want to learn or what you want to get better at,” offers Fasola. “Let’s say you’ve always been interested in photography. Hop on the Road Scholar site and find a list of courses—some close by and others where you can fly to Manitoba and photograph polar bears.”
Osher’s Blazevich echoes Fasola’s sentiments.
“Education after retirement is about expanding your horizons. My advice is to find something that interests you and see where it takes you,” he says. “Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn about Romantic poetry, Irish literature or African song. Now is your time to go for it.”
Originally published on Northwestern MutualVoice on Forbes.com.