As the kids head back to school this time of year, why not consider going back to school yourself? It is never too late to learn and there are many lifelong learning opportunities of all kinds!
Why participate in lifelong learning opportunities?
- It’s fun! It can be a great chance to learn something you’ve always wanted to, start a new hobby, meet new people and expand your mind.
- Reduce loneliness, bring new purpose to your life and adapt better to change when you continue learning throughout life.
- It’s good for you! Research shows participating in school helped older adults increase their overall level of activity and improve memory functioning over time. An enriched environment, whether through a formal university program or self-directed learning, has an important role in active aging and helps compensate for emotional and cognitive decline (Psychology Today).
Resource Guide for Lifelong Learning Opportunities: Where to Find Great (Many Cheap or FREE) Classes
Eckerd Ocher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is a non-profit program designed for people 50+ (open to all adult learners). Each year OLLI provides more than 300 interesting non-credit classes, interest groups, local and international trips and special events at several locations in Pinellas County from St. Pete up to Palm Harbor.
Another Eckerd program is ASPEC (Academy of Senior Professionals), with almost 200 peer-led interest group programs and many hands-on activities. They offer some public forums, but becoming a member provides you access to the full range of options (you can try out a one-month membership to see if it’s right for you).
St. Pete College offers non-credit courses in a wide range of subjects, whether you want to learn a new language, get tech savvy with computer courses or join a community chorus.
Want to know more about what local government does and get a peek into the various departments that help our county run? Pinellas Citizen University is a 10-week course that costs only $35 (there is a significant amount of physical activity required in the on-site learning).
Local senior centers and community centers offer a range of classes. The Dunedin Hale Center has an active calendar chock full of every kind of class and activity you could want; Largo Community Center offers writing workshops, financial planning seminars, foreign language classes and sessions on how to use Pinterest and your Smartphone; Sunshine Center in St. Pete offers exercise and other classes plus several services on-site.
There are also lots of learning opportunities on specific topics. For example, our free monthly workshops cover topics like dealing with a memory disorder diagnosis, technology tools for caregivers/aging, organizing your healthcare records, key legal documents and much more. If you have a topic you want to learn more about, there are many free or inexpensive workshops locally or online.
Lifelong Learning Online
Universities have been catering to online adult learners for quite a while, offering video lectures, distance learning on their websites, and using Youtube and iTunes to post popular lectures. Massive open online courses started around 2011. As older adults are getting online more and more, the options have expanded exponentially. Many of these options are simple to set up/access with a computer or iPad.
YouTube: anytime I have trouble with a topic or need to know how to do something (like a pesky computer issue) I search for an article or, even better, a Youtube video. There are thousands of free tutorials, in addition to lectures, TED talks and more.
Udemy offers more than 40,000 courses that you can access from any device. Topics cover a huge range, from every type of computer class you can imagine to health and fitness, language, personal finance, memory and study skills, music, and photography.
Coursera is a website that helps you find courses online offered by the best universities and organizations (such as Stanford, Duke, and Johns Hopkins).
Learningadvisor.com, run by Kaplan and AARP (Life Reimagined), calls itself a “hub for 50+ learning”, bringing together information on online and on-campus courses.
Worldwide Classes/Travel and Experiential Learning
Elderhostel is a well-known name in lifelong learning (since 1975), which has now been rebranded as Road Scholar. They offer experiential learning opportunities: over 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and all 50 states, serving more than 100,000 participants per year. My grandparents have participated in several of these programs over the years and they’ve loved them all.
You might think of the buffet, pool, and shows when you think of cruises but some offer wonderful learning experiences as well. Here is an article from Cruise Critic, which covers some of the best cruise ship enrichment programs. You’re sure to find something that suits your interest, and many ships run special cruises focused on specific interests also.