Back to School – Never Stop Learning

It seems like youngsters are just getting out of school when the back-to-school advertising starts.  I cringe when I remember shopping with my sons – everyone ended up practically in tears by the end of the day. They wanted all the latest clothes and gadgets and I was trying to stick to a budget.  I’m glad those days are long gone.

Now when I think of back-to-school, I consider all the continuing education courses that will be available to me in the fall.  I love to learn new things.

There are two types of lifelong learning opportunities for older adults – you can pay (often discounted) tuition fees and join younger students in regular credit or audit non-credit courses, or else mingle with other retirees in specific programs at local centres at minimal cost – or free.

Pursue a degree

You may have seen news stories about older people who have returned to university and completed their degrees after previously dropping out.

Maybe you had a passion for archeology when you were younger but, being mindful of what job opportunities would be available after completing your studies, you settled for a program with good future income possibilities like Business Administration or Health Sciences.  Or perhaps you quit school before earning all your credits because your priorities changed.  Years ago, many people went to work right out of high school.

So, now you complete your archeology degree and go on a dig on some remote Greek island.  You upload your activities to Instagram and YouTube and are approached by National Geographic or the Discovery Channel to do an all-expense-paid-multi-year series.  You followed your passion and ended up with a new later-age career that you couldn’t have even imagined when you were a young adult.

Or, maybe you don’t do anything further with your new degree.  You just have the satisfaction of completing your course of study and learning something new.

There are lots of choices available to you:

  • you can take a series of credit courses leading to a degree or diploma, 
  • you can audit courses of interest for non-credit, or
  • you can take mini special-interest courses in the evenings or weekends, or one-day programs.

You may be interested in going back to school but are hesitant to join a classroom “full of kids.” 

However, postsecondary institutions have changed since you and I were younger.  They are no longer exclusively the bricks and mortar places they once were.  If the thought of entering university as a mature student is too daunting, consider the many on-line courses for your new studies.

Other learning opportunities

Local senior centres and community centres – even the library – offer a variety of classes and are great resources for finding teachers in your area.

Try something new that you have an interest in or challenges you.

Some learning activities to consider:

  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Learn a musical instrument.
  • Learn a new craft such as woodworking, quilting, or painting.
  • Take up dancing.
  • Take an ethnic or gourmet cooking class.
  • Learn creative writing or photography

Related:  What do Retiring Boomers Like to do?

Think about your “end-game.”  Do you want to enhance your knowledge in a particular area, or do you want to be able to do something specific?  Here’s a cooking example:  Do you want to know the chemistry of how leavening interacts with sugars, or do you want to bake a really good cake?

Benefits of lifelong learning

Most people have a list of things they would like to learn but never had the time to do it.  Once you retire you have the gift of free time.  It’s the perfect opportunity.

Here are some other benefits:

  • It keeps you healthier and more active.  Learning about new subjects or new skills is a great way to keep the mind sharp.  Continued learning promotes long-term memory,  and problem-solving abilities.
  • It boosts self-esteem.  Think of how proud of yourself you are when you learn something new.
  • It’s a great way to meet new people.  When you attend a class, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who share some common interests with you.  It’s a built-in ice breaker that can lead you to some amazing new friends. Plus, you’ll bring a unique perspective and years of life experience if you’re in a classroom of young adult learners.

Related:  Making New Friends in Retirement

The bottom line

Learning is an essential part of life.  It expands our minds and keeps us mentally youthful.

Following your passions can be truly transformational at any age.  It keeps you interested and makes you interesting when you have new things to think and talk about.

Why not get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to learn something new? 


Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. Henry Ford

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2 Responses

  1. Phyllis says:

    Thank you for this. I love the quote from Henry Ford.

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