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More seniors enrolling in lifelong learning programs

February 25, 2014

The number of adults over the age of 55 enrolling in courses to continue their learning has grown exponentially over the past few years, with more seniors participating in college classes, community workshops and online-based learning experiences. Much like schooling opportunities that younger people go through, these events may be free, taught by professionals and excellent social escapes for adult learners seeking to make the most of their free time. 

Lifelong learning keeps seniors engaged
Courses dedicated to older adults do not have to solely focus on traditional educational topics, such as math or science. Since seniors have a wider base of knowledge entering the classroom than their younger counterparts, classes geared toward the elderly can cover an expansive array of topics. Not only can continued education contribute to a healthy lifestyle for seniors, but it can allow them to reap an array of cognitive rewards, including improved memory care and overall physical health, according to the Houston Chronicle. These learning opportunities - whether they educate students about international current affairs or teach them exercises that are best for their physical health - keep seniors' brains actively engaged through discussion and participation. Pete Bidinger, a 71-year-old Ohio resident, told the AARP that he appreciates being a student again due to the increased knowledge he has gained pertaining to history, his favorite subject.

"Just this past summer, I couldn't name the countries that form Central Asia," Bidinger said to the source. "Now I know the traditions of those countries from Columbus' time."

Free programs target older adults
Courses that do not cost any money, similar to the one in which Bidinger was enrolled, are offered across the country, from colleges to nonprofit organizations. One Texas-based program, the Academy for Lifelong Learning, creates educational opportunities for seniors in the area that are free or relatively inexpensive. Donna Smith Burns, program director for ALL at Lone Star College, told the Houston Chronicle that their campus has seen a rise in the number of attending seniors since its inception in 2000. She told the source that the courses offered, which range from technology to finance, have experienced success in reaching and involving seniors in the area.

"We realize this program is unique for community colleges and very much needed by the communities to keep retired individuals engaged and active," Smith Burns said. "At the Montgomery campus, we had an early relationship with a 55-plus community, Lennar, and we continue to have 55-plus communities approach us to collaborate."