September, the new school year, is a perfect time to give the gift of learning.  Remaining flexible and current in our thinking is vital for healthy aging.  Not only is it likely to delay the effects of cognitive change but it also gives us another way to participate in life.  Especially in colder climates, where the risks of isolation are higher for older adults, life-long learning offers a way to get involved and collaborate with people who share similar interests.  The best thing about today’s life-long learning options is that there is something for all budgets, from free to expensive!

Choose your best back-to-school outfit and get ready to pick from a vast number of course options.  The entry of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and most recently, the participation of elite educational institutions offer a seemingly endless opportunity for learning engagement and collaboration.  Prestigious institutions including Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Yale, Berkeley, and Duke offer a variety of MOOCs.  Ranging from writing to statistics, marketing to mathematics, there are short and longer term courses, with and without assignments and exams.  Some let the learning pick their preferred level of involvement including the chance to receive feedback from learning assistants and peer groups.  MOOCs go beyond learning of the subject matter and provide connection into a network of people with similar interests.  MOOCs have something for everyone’s time schedule, tastes and needs.

For those with more time, money and a sense of adventure, the Road Scholar approach may be of interest.  Formerly known as Elderhostel, the programs emphasize an experiential way to learn more about the world.  Although the early days included youth hostel services for travel accommodations the program has evolved to using more traditional lodgings.  It’s an innovative offering and depending on the trip it may be available to only older adults or to multi-generations.  Some trips also offer singles a chance to travel without additional fees.

Joan Chittister[1], an expert on aging and retirement, sums up learning for the older adult as:  “The danger in the later years is the myth that older people cannot learn now as they have in younger years.”  Don’t be late for school!

[1]The Gift of the Years, 2008, BlueBridge Publishing, NY.

*picture from PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay