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Massachusetts man gets high school diploma at 106

March 7, 2013

Earning a new degree is part of the retirement plan for many older adults, and one Massachusetts man in particular recently took that to a new level. Fred Butler, 106, was given his high school diploma decades after dropping out to help support his family, reports The Associated Press.

Despite not finishing high school, Butler has lived an enviable life. A World War II veteran, he had a long career with the local water department. His family also said he put a strong emphasis on the importance of education to his children and grandchildren. In fact, it was his daughter-in-law Cathy who spearheaded the effort to get him his diploma. Beverly, Massachusetts, Mayor Bill Scanlon was happy to oblige. 

"It's a long time to wait for your diploma," Scanlon said while presenting the diploma, according to the AP, "But you've obviously earned it very well."

While Butler may not have returned to the classroom to earn his diploma, the fact that he stressed the importance of learning throughout his life should highlight the benefits of continuing education for seniors. Heading back to the classroom is a great way to stay mentally active, which is a cornerstone of healthy aging. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who participated in mentally stimulating activities were about 47 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's. 

Not only does continuing education offer mental health benefits, it is also an excellent way for seniors to stay socially engaged as they get older. Older adults who are more socially active tend to have lower levels of depression and overall well-being, according to the National Institutes of Health.