Latest Trends in Adult Education

Trends in Adult Education

They dedicated at least a decade to jobs they may not have loved; they made sacrifices to raise children and they cared for their elderly parents. Now, seniors are picking up where they left off in their youth and heading back to school!

It’s an emerging trend for retirees as well as adults nearing retirement -- they’re choosing to brush up on studies they started ages ago and are even reinventing themselves and pursuing new fields of study.    

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Continuing education courses and evening classes are being offered by community colleges, and online classes teach everything from typing to interior design. But many seniors want to sit in classrooms, put their noses to the grindstone and earn credentials

Pick up where you left off

One example is John Graves who graduated from law in school in 2012 at age 66. Graves’ original dream in the 1960s was to become a lawyer. Some 40 years later he retired from a career in education and enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School, this time to study pursue his first love, law. Graves is not the only senior at the University of Michigan. In the fall of 2011 seven senior citizens were completing their degrees as well as auditing courses, and in 2012 approximately thirty seniors were enrolled or auditing classes.

Bia Hamed, program manager at Eastern Michigan University's extended program says that seniors come back to school for many reasons. Some want to retool and update their skills, some want to learn the latest technology and many want to better themselves and learn something new.

Schools specifically for folks age 55 and up are seeing increasing enrollments as baby boomers retire. An example is Wesley School for Seniors in Sydney Australia. Both leisure and learning courses are available in this strictly seniors’ school and their average enrollment is 550 students per term. Approximately one hundred courses are offered including languages, history, computer and digital media, dancing, music and religious studies. Classes are in session year round between 8:30 and 4:00 five days a week.

Correspondence class is not what it used to be!

For seniors living in remote areas, as well as those that wish to learn from the comfort of their homes, the possibilities are nearly endless. Universities offer degree programs by correspondence, and unlike in the days when assignments were sent by mail, students may now log into an online site and work at their computers. Lectures are available by video and exams are taken either at the campus or a local library.

Be inspired!

At age 90, Helen Small received her Master’s Degree at the University of Texas in Dallas. As of May 2010 she was the second oldest to graduate from UT Dallas. Small started college in the 1930s but gave up the books to be a wife and mother. She says that she’s always had a nagging desire to go back to school so she learned the computer, embraced the Internet and in 2004 she enrolled at university. Small says that it’s mind over matter and hopes to encourage other seniors not to give up on long-held aspirations.

If you are inspired by seniors who have not let age hold them back, search online for lifelong learning programs as well as educational opportunities for older adults. You may obtain financial aid depending on your situation; and there are also loans, scholarships and Military assistance for qualifying individuals. Don’t be afraid to pick up where you left off or challenge yourself to learning something new!  


Written by Alice Lucette

Photo credit: IK's World Trip  of Flickr

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