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Graduating college at 87: One man's story

August 8, 2014

If you've always wanted to learn more about a subject, now is a great time to act on it. The American Association of Community Colleges started the "Plus 50 Initiative" and other colleges are creating similar programs to accommodate the growing number of older adults who want to continue their education. Jack Slotnick was one of those older adults who wished to participate in a healthy lifestyle for seniors and challenge himself at a local university, according to Today. At 84 years old, he felt a void in his life that could only be filled by getting a college degree, so he decided to take advantage of living close to Lynn University, a private school in Boca Raton, Florida. 

Jack's story
As a World War II veteran, Jack felt he could be a good source of support and understanding for soldiers who are now returning home from war and finding it difficult to adapt. A Purple Heart recipient, Jack is a great resource for others coming home from war, noted Today. His experiences in the war, including losing more than 800 brothers in arms, have given him the ability to connect with fellow veterans in a deep and unique way.

However, he learned that he needed a psychology degree if he wanted to pursue his goals professionally. Although he admitted to Today that he was nervous for his first day back at school, and, in fact, most people thought he was the professor when he first walked into the classroom, he felt the experience was necessary to keep his mind sharp and make a difference in the lives of other veterans. The end goal was what motivated him to keep going and graduate with a bachelor's at the age of 87.

Continuing your education
While Jack may have had a professional goal in mind, you don't need plans to start a new career after retirement to go back to school. Some older adults just continue their education to reap the healthy aging benefits of keeping their minds stimulated. If this sounds more like you, there are many opportunities available for you to learn in a college setting either in or out of a classroom without breaking the bank.

  • According to the University of California, Los Angeles website, the school offers a Senior Scholar's program for no fee, and allows participants to choose from 600 undergraduate courses. Included are courses in American film history, public policy and political science.
  • Georgetown University's Senior Citizen Non-Degree Auditor Program gives students over the age of 65 an opportunity to participate in certain undergraduate lectures for a small fee, it notes on its website. 
  • Senior Planet noted that California State University's Senior Citizen Education Program allows seniors to enroll in a course for just $3. Check out the course offerings online and see what interests you.
  • The University of Southern Florida College of Arts offers classes under the Senior Citizen Audit Program for no fee, according to the school's website. As long as you're a Florida resident over the age of 60, you qualify for the program.
  • The AACC's Plus 50 Initiative gives adults over the age of 50 the chance to continue their education at participating colleges, noted its Web page. The program was created in 2008 and currently has 18 participating schools, with that number expected to grow.
  • Coursera is a program that allows people of all ages the opportunity to participate in leading university lectures for free. The site explained that you can choose from 723 courses offered at 110 different colleges. All of the courses are online and give you the chance to submit work, listen in on lectures and take exams.